Dancing out the trash

Screening of 2012 'Trash Dance' offers a pre-PASEO taste of street artistry

By Tamra Testerman
Posted 9/3/19

A memorable moment of the 2012 documentary film "Trash Dance" is the scene of a large crane, the kind you see in big city dumps, performing a "dance" whirling around in place with …

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Dancing out the trash

Screening of 2012 'Trash Dance' offers a pre-PASEO taste of street artistry


A memorable moment of the 2012 documentary film "Trash Dance" is the scene of a large crane, the kind you see in big city dumps, performing a "dance" whirling around in place with its heavy shovel jaws opening and closing like a delicate lotus. The operator, Austin trash collector Don Anderson, is focused as he adjusts the altitude and direction of the scoop to the live music of a few musicians huddled in a tent not far away, and a crowd of hundreds huddled together in the rain.

This film explores in poignant detail the backstory of the men and women who take out the city trash.

There is an ever-present sense of humor and raw talent as we watch the once invisible workers becoming visible. Although this universal human story on film opened 10 years ago, the impact of the process of filming and screening resonated for years in the Austin community, and all over the world according, to the choreographer Allison Orr. It is translated in Spanish, French, Hebrew German and Polish, and there have been special screenings for trash collectors all over the world.

Orr said the idea came to her watching a garbage truck roll down her block. From that spark she was confident "we could make something great together from the basic movement of watching the trucks come down the block. Dancing [after all] is coordinating space, time and energy." Many years later the stars of "money, time and connections" aligned for Orr and filmmaker Andrew Garrison through a serendipitous meeting with her husband at a fundraiser.

The choreographer's work intrigued Garrison and he offered to follow her as she rode with Austin sanitation workers on their daily routes "to observe and later convince them to perform a dance with heavy equipment, to live music." It is a beautiful achievement. There was torrential rain the day of the performance which did not discourage the sold-out audience and added to the drama of an invisible cadre of talented men and women who take out Austin's trash.

The filmmaker, professor at University of Texas-Austin, said, "Allison is brilliant at what she does, getting them to collaborate and contribute." Garrison comes from a blue-collar family in south Florida. The documentary work in this film reflects this. To connect on camera with workers wary of being filmed on the job, he said, "It is important to show them I respect them and earn their respect."

Pre-PASEO screenings of "Trash Dance" are planned Monday through Wednesday (Sept. 9-11), 7 p.m., at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Tickets are $8.50. Wednesday's screening will include a preview presentation by PASEO director-curator Matt Thomas.

Thomas said he noticed "Trash Dance" last year when he attended a conference around place-making and met Krissie Marty, who works with Forklift Danceworks.

"They do community art projects around the country and I loved the participatory aspect of what they do," he said. "The PASEO Project is all about community participation and as anyone would know what the festival is, we bring artists to the streets of Taos to engage with our community on many levels. Last year we had the mobile Museum of American Artifacts and this year we have la Pocha Nostra featuring Guillermo Gomez-Peña. With our artist-in-residence program we bring artists to Taos for an extended period to work with our community. I loved what Forklift Danceworks does and thought maybe we could bring them here as an artist-in-residence."

Thomas said there will be a special presentation before the film in which he will present "a sneak peek of PASEO 2019 artists to the audience." This year, he continued, "we have over 32 installations and while we publish it all on our website and create a map and guidebook for the weekend, one of our biggest requests has been how can people learn more about what art is coming to Taos. For 30 minutes before the screening I will go through the installations that people can see over the weekend. It will be a great way for people to prepare for what promises to be a filled and fun weekend."

Thomas said this work is important for The PASEO Project and Taos because the project works to explore art and community on many levels.

"We collaborate with local organizations, we hold workshops and education programs in our schools and we bring innovative technologies and thoughts to our community. 'Trash Dance' is a performance piece like none other. I thought it would be fun to share like-minded projects where artists are working with communities and interesting and innovative ways. Forklift Danceworks is an incredible arts organization and we hope to collaborate with them soon."

For more information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052. Visit paseoproject.org.


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