Splashin’ their way into my heart: My summer at Givens Pool


This summer, Forklift Danceworks created Givens Swims, the final performance of My Park, My Pool, My City.  Givens Swims featured the everyday movement of the people who maintain and swim at Givens Pool. From neighborhood teens to community elders, the story of the pool was told by people who have long lived, worked, and played around this historic place. In this series of blog posts, hear from four interns who joined Forklift’s artistic team for the performances.

From Tamara Rivera, Student at Wesleyan University, Summer 2019 Artistic Intern and Stage Manager

Photos by Amitava Sarkar and Justin Humphrey

Splashin’ circle from the kids section of Givens Swims.

I was in my Intro to Environmental Studies class taught by Professor Barry Chernoff when I first learned about Forklift Danceworks. Gretchen LaMotte, a Wesleyan Alumni and Assistant Choreographer for Forklift Danceworks, selected six students to shadow physical plant workers as part of this class. I worked closely with Tom, the foreman of HVAC, and used what I learned from his skilled movements to create a presentation for our final project. We performed a walkthrough together in front of the class that demonstrated a small portion of the tremendous labor he does for the campus that goes unnoticed. The experience allowed me to learn how crucial it is to acknowledge the people behind often invisible work. I was eager to continue this practice and jumped at the opportunity to intern with Forklift Danceworks for the summer. 

Growing up as a low income first generation Latina, my family, with one older sister and two younger siblings, has shaped me into a patient and adaptable individual. I attended an underfunded public school system from kindergarten through high school because my parents only made enough money to keep us fed, clothed, and sheltered.  I was able to make it out of a city plagued with violence and hardship. I had to mature and take on responsibilities at a young age. Now, as a college student, I see these obstacles as an important part of my path to development as a confident, socially-conscious woman. I plan to use this to fuel my journey of working with others.

When I was asked what group I would be most comfortable working with, I picked the youth without hesitation. I want to be a role model and inspiration to young ones who do not see people that they can relate to in professional work spaces. We started recruiting kids in early June from the camp at Givens Recreation Center. We spent time with them at the pool during camp hours and would motivate them to show us their biggest jumps or coolest tricks by being super supportive. They loved the attention; stars were born!

Dominic and Tamara sharing a bow.

The kids were able to create their own dance phrase sequence by each contributing their favorite move to do in the water, which ended up being spectacular! Figuring out choreography with 20 kids was so much fun because of how creative they were. We were able to whip up a dance easily. The kids were a handful. We did struggle at times with their focus and behavior especially during the performances, but the stress of the chaos would wash away when seeing the smiles on their faces while performing. I loved checking in on whoever had a frown and turning it upside down. I loved giving advice to teenagers who were preparing themselves for high school. I loved becoming a mentor and someone they seeked help from. 

Tamara and the rest of the cast during the Miss East Austin section.

One family in particular made me feel at home. They were the first kids I recruited for the performance from the Givens Recreation Center because their energy was contagious. As a mother of five, Crystal was present at each rehearsal and became a great help during the process. The youngest one, Domonic, clung on to me at all times. The family and I shared many stories, laughs, and hugs that will never be forgotten. They wrote me a farewell card saying, “You came and created and inspired and we are forever grateful. We are going to miss you, but no matter where you go in life just know you have left your mark in our hearts.”  

And they have left their mark on mine. 

Tamara ready to go for the run of the show!

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