Allison Orr

As Interviewed by Eli Appl, March 25, 2019

Allison Orr: In Her Own Words

I was in graduate school and I had to do a choreographic project I was studying dance and I was sitting in the school cafeteria and I looked up and I saw a man washing windows and I thought it was the most beautiful movement I had seen all semester and I ended up getting to know him and asked him if he would perform that as my choreographic project and he did. So that's how I started I kind of stumbled into it.

So for the past 20 years I've done over 20 different projects with different communities. My forever favorite memories was with the Trash Project which was the project with the sanitation department with the trash collectors the first time we did it we only did it one night and it had rained and rained and rained and I didnt even have a dry pair of pants to put on to go to the rehearsal the day of the show and when it came to the actual show day I didn't even have dry clothes to put on it had been raining for so many days after I gave my little talk and said now the shows going to start and I sat down and Graham, the composer I worked with started playing these chords and the trash trucks started driving out and just you know I got tears in my eyes along with everybody else in the audience. It was really emotional.

That's a really sweet thing to see the families of the workers who we collaborate with come and witness their Dad or Mom or sister or brother, son and daughter see them and really have them shine at their jobs and you know get to be a star. It’s really actually super fun to work with people who have a life's work that involves being really good at something like climbing a transmission tower or maintaining a pool or a driving a trash truck.

We've been doing surveys for a while now and what we know for sure is that our projects really improve morale and communication at the job so what the city employees who we work with we see a real Improvement in the way people feel about their work the pride they feel in their work their increased respect. We’re also really interested in helping citizens or residents you know folks who come see the shows who aren't workers themselves better understand and appreciate and have a more human connection to the people who are often doing daily work that really supports their lives so we hope that people feel a greater sense of connection and relationship and understanding and then I will say that the other impact we are really looking at these days is what we call Civic Engagement or how we encourage people to take action on behalf of themselves or their community. With the Aquatics project we were really trying to get more public involvement in understanding and why our city pools matter and in this last bond the largest budget the largest amount ever was passed for aquatics so we are also seeing policy and funding impact which is I think very exciting for us.

I especially love choreographing I love getting to make shows with people I love getting to ask a question and watch different people solve it in a variety of ways and a lot of my job is really about listening to people and kind of showing up at their jobs or in their communities and just being curious about their world. Building trust and getting them to tell me what they would like the community to know about them so I feel like I've gotten to see parts of my own city parts of Austin that most people don't get to see so I feel very lucky.