“This lady is crazy,” says Don Anderson, a municipal Austin sanitation worker in “Trash Dance,” the documentary by Austin filmmaker Andrew Garrison.
“How are you going to make trucks dance? Trucks don’t dance.”
Austin choreographer Allison Orr indeed made the trucks dance.
Anderson is one of 25 sanitation workers who performed in “The Trash Project,” the transcendent and resonant performance Orr created and that premiered in 2009.
At the time, an over-capacity crowd of more than 2,000 descended on the rain-slicked tarmac of Austin’s former Mueller Airport to watch as Anderson and his co-workers gracefully manipulated not just trucks, but cranes, trash bins and leaf blowers in a performance that illuminated how artistic everyday labor is when framed as dance.
Deftly directed and produced by Garrison, the 65-minute “Trash Dance” documentary charts the year Orr spent working with sanitation workers to create her singular and critically acclaimed show.
“For me it all starts with someone picking up the trash,” says Orr, who under the auspices of her Forklift Danceworks company has wrested riveting, resonant performances from dog walkers, traffic cops and even Venetian gondoliers.
Though Orr has made her career by unearthing the beauty of everyday movement, Garrison wisely and elegantly trains his lens not so much on Orr’s creative process per se but on the resonance her artistic collaboration has on those who are involved.
Garrison gives voice to the often invisible people involved in an essential service that makes modern life livable — the people who get to work cleaning our streets at 2 a.m., who magically make the discards of our consumer culture conveniently disappear from the curb. We meet single fathers, parents holding down two jobs to make ends meet and, most importantly, people whose lives — like all lives — extend far beyond the boundaries of their employment.
Garrison’s thoughtful, eloquent documentary illuminates the reality that all work matters and has dignity, no matter the invisibility of the labor.
Or as crane-operator Anderson reminds us about midway through the film, “There is some grace to what we do.”
“Trash Dance” had its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival and Conference in 2012.
Rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 5 minutes. Theater: Violet Crown.
Filmmaker Andrew Garrison, choreographer Allison Orr and various Austin sanitation workers will participate in Q&As at the 7 p.m. screenings Friday through Thursday. City of Austin employees receive a $2 discount on tickets purchased at the box office or by phone.