From Sarafina Fabris-Green, Student at Wesleyan University, Summer 2018 Development Intern and Stage Manager
Photos by Thomas Meredith, Amitava Sarkar, and Jonica Moore
From my first day of kindergarten until now, I have experienced many first days. With these first days, whether they involve meeting cabin mates at camp, arriving to the first day of high school, or sitting through the first class in a college semester, comes ice-breakers. A leader may ask for a fun fact or even begin a full range of games. These games, though seemingly meaningless, instill comfort and offer something about oneself to your peers. While I worked at Forklift Danceworks last summer, much of our group was new and as I learned with the team last year, one can never know what a summer at Forklift will have in store. My orientation day this June with Forklift Artistic Director Allison Orr and Associate Choreographer Krissie Marty was anything other than generic. As we left our circle in the Dove Springs Rec Center to head to the pool after that first day, we felt a level of trust in the women around us that I believe played a crucial role in the success of this summer’s production of Dove Springs Swims.
Rather than following the typical first-day route, Krissie and Allison left it to us to decide what we would offer to the group. They posed the questions, “What would you like us to know about you?” and “What is one thing you would like someone to lookout for this summer so that they can support you?” Initially, I noticed these questions seemed unusually personal, but also oddly freeing. However, it was not just the questions themselves that encouraged us to open up, but rather that Allison went first. As she volunteered to speak I thought she chose to go first just to give us an example, but upon hearing her response I had a different feeling. By opening up to us about her family, her beliefs, and the little things that spark her creativity every day, she put herself in a place of vulnerability that made us trust her and understand that she truly wanted us to give a genuine response about our interests, our worries, and our pasts. As we went around the circle the contributions became more personal. This was no average ice breaker. By the time we had completed our circle, my nerves around meeting new people were gone.
Over the course of our summer at Dove Springs, the interns and I met a lot of new people, but we carried with us the openness shown by Allison and Krissie on that first day. We used our confidence in each other as friends and teammates to spread the spirit of Forklift with every new swimmer, neighbor, lifeguard, photographer, reporter, or tech member we met. Nearly two-thirds of our community cast members, a group spanning in age from two to ninety-two, came to us from a first encounter at the pool that led to their participation in the performance.
In observing Allison and Krissie over the course of two summers, it is the openness and sense of trust they spark in those who they talk to that impresses me most. I see the way their questions like, “What do you want people to know about this neighborhood?” or “What do we need to make sure to include in this show?” make people feel validated in their ideas and give them agency in the creative process. As part of this, an increased ability to communicate with both those most similar and most different to me is the greatest thing I have taken from this summer at Forklift Danceworks. I know that wherever I am, and whatever future first days I encounter, I will be able to find that one way to relate to someone and be able to use my communication skills to support a working relationship or end goal. Forklift impacts the public in the form of its shows, but the real magic for the Forklift performers, staff, and collaborators may come from the relationships formed in the process.