Forklift’s ‘The Way of Water’ celebrates those who steward the city’s waterways

For their latest intrepid performance, Forklift Danceworks collaborates with employees of Austin Watershed Protection


Forklift Danceworks will present its newest work ‘The Way of Water: Waller Creek’ Nov. 17 through Nov. 19 at Waterloo Greenway in downtown Austin. Five performances are planned as part of Creek Show 2022.

The show is a collaboration between Forklift and the Austin Watershed Protection department. It will showcase “how water moves through downtown Austin and what it means for our community,” organizers said in a release.

It is the dance company’s seventh collaboration with a City of Austin department. Previous projects involved Austin Animal Center (‘Dances for Dogs and People Who Walk Them’), Austin Resource Recovery (‘Trash Dance’), and Parks and Recreation (‘My Park, My Pool, My City’), among others.

The current show is the first in a planned multi-year collaboration with Austin Watershed Protection.

Using the Waller Creek Tunnel Inlet Facility as a stage, the 45-minute show will feature about two dozen Austin Watershed Protection employees and more than a dozen vehicles (including a forklift).

Accompanied live by composer Graham Reynolds and a digitally augmented string quartet performing his original score, the dancers’ movements will showcase how they protect Austin’s waterways from flooding, erosion, and pollution before crowds of about 2,000.

Krissie Marty is Forklift’s Associate Artistic and Community Collaborations Director. She is the show’s director, and one of half a dozen choreographers who put it together.

“We always think about our dances around work,” Marty said. “This is really about water and the people who steward it. So really looking at who’s caring for water, who’s protecting water, who’s managing water — you know, who’s watching, who’s studying, who’s paying attention.”

She explained that she and others from Forklift shadowed Austin Watershed Protection employees in their jobs to get an understanding of their work and what she called their “expertise of movement” in carrying it out.

“All of that work informs everything, all of the physicality of job shadowing informs everything we do and is a huge part of building relationships,” Marty said.

She explained that Forklift began talks with Austin Watershed Protection in 2019. “Then we were supposed to start job shadowing when the pandemic happened, so that got delayed.” Work on the project finally began in spring of this year, she said.

“We started working with Watershed [Protection] and learning what a watershed is,” she said.

“You know the tunnel is part of a long, thin watershed. … It comes from up above Koenig Lane all the way down to the river. … And it’s one of the most urbanized watersheds … that creek especially has downtown, UT, and then up north, it’s more residential. But definitely very urban. This show is really looking at that watershed.”

Inlet crew worker Travis Taylor operates a raking screen that cleans debris Waller Creek. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro

The current show focuses specifically on Austin Watershed Protection’s downtown operations.

“We’re there to tell the story of their work,” she said, “and they’re co-creating it with us.”

Marty said she hopes the show helps audiences to think differently about water. “I would love for people to just think about the way we live in the context of water. Watershed in a way is, it’s almost like this invisible infrastructure. Some of the infrastructure is literally underneath our streets in our city. It’s kind of hidden from us. …

“So I think I just want people to have a little bit of a really new awareness of how we exist within the context of water and land and that magical connection, and to the people who are caring for it. And that they’re caring for us, they’re caring for our property, our homes, our things and the environment.”

Future shows around living with water by the Austin-based dance company will take place not only here, but likely elsewhere in the U.S. and the world. The team has been looking at possible projects along the Rio Grande as well as in Miami.

Internationally, “Alison did a project in Venice years ago,” Marty said of Forklift founder Allison Orr. “She’s been trying to get back to do a project and we had talked to the people who clean Saint Mark’s Square, which is part of their sanitation and trash department, which also [are] the people who remove and set up gates and bridges and floating areas for when it floods in Venice.”

‘The Way of Water: Waller Creek’ is free, but advanced reservations are recommended. Some shows are already full, but organizers say more tickets will be released soon. A limited number of tickets also will be available at the door.

For more information see

Rebecca Johnson
Rebecca Johnson
Rebecca Johnson is an Austin-based arts writer and owner of Arts Articulated, LLC.

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