Forklift Danceworks' Dove Springs Swims

The company's latest community production showed why Dove Springs' pool matters to that neighborhood and to all of us as well

Some of the community members in Dove Springs Swims (Photo by Amitava Sarkar)

Everyone looks more graceful in the pool. It doesn't matter whether they're swimming above, diving below, floating, or even kicking their feet and making big splashes, everyone appears to move with a touch more smoothness, more finesse, more, well, fluidity than on land. And that last part is the reason, isn't it? We move a bit better – are better – by virtue of being in the water. The water lifts us all.

That was evident throughout Dove Springs Swims/Nadamos Dove Springs, the second production in the three-year community project My Park, My Pool, My City, created by Forklift Danceworks in partnership with the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department's Aquatics Division. As with the project's initial effort, Bartholomew Swims, the show was essentially a translation of a city pool's history and daily life into performance, with sequences depicting swimming lessons, swim team practice, lifeguard drills, tests for pool water quality, and plain ol' pool recreational activity, all performed by Aquatics Division staff and neighborhood residents who use the pool. So for an hour, those of us in the bleachers along one side of the Dove Springs Pool had ample opportunity to observe humans moving outside and in the pool, and whoever it was – experienced swimmer or novice, child or senior – the movement always had an extra grace when that person was in it, buoyed by the clear, cool liquid: the gentle rocking of the body as one arm slid out of the water, arced over the swimmer's head, and slid back in, to be followed by the same movement by the other arm; the elegant glide of the diver below the surface; the bob of the head and shoulders of someone treading water.

As is so often true of Forklift work, the dances crafted by artistic director Allison Orr and associate choreographer Krissie Marty felt less like choreography for trained artists than like extensions of the performers' organic movements (the notable exception being a piece of synchronized swimming in which performers with kickboards made geometric formations Busby Berkeley might have put in an Esther Williams picture). Orr and Marty are masters at keeping movements as natural as can be for the performers, with just enough repetition and pattern that we see the artistry in a gesture or a step or, as here, a stroke – the lifeguard's slip of an arm around a swimmer's torso and pull toward shore becomes balletic.

But as is always even more true of Forklift work, the performance was less about moves than about the community where they occur. Broadcast around the pool during the various sequences were people's stories of their connections to Dove Springs Pool: the neighborhood resident who called it "a gathering place," the Aquatics Division employee who's helped keep it clean and safe for decades. Those of us watching were kept conscious of a specific place and time, and the participation in the production of so many different kinds of people – ages, races, genders, personalities – built a sense of communal celebration in that place and time, a party, with Graham Reynolds' rocking score making every sequence festive, especially when vocalist Paul Sanchez (exceptional, as ever) punctuated a number with a joyous grito.

A sliver of a moon smiled down on the party as the periwinkle sky shifted to indigo and the lights by production designer Stephen Pruitt shifted to a vibrant purple. We were witness to a gathering of neighbors in a special spot, one where all of Dove Springs is welcome and can congregate, to swim, to splash, to float, to play – a spot where everyone who comes is better and is lifted up just by being in the pool. We should all be grateful that Dove Springs has such a spot. We all need one.

Dove Springs Swims

Dove Springs Neighborhood Pool, 5701 Ainez
July 14

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Forklift Danceworks, My Park, My Pool, My City, Dove Springs, Allison Orr, Krissie Marty, Graham Reynolds, Stephen Pruitt, Paul Sanchez

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