'Givens Swims' Celebrates A Community Pool And A Community

Jul 10, 2019

Forklift Danceworks has created performances starring roller skaters, Elvis impersonators, and the city’s sanitation department (and their trucks). Oh, and also baseball players, traffic cops, and marching bands. Non-dancers dancing in unexpected places is kind of their specialty. 

In recent years, Forklift has partnered with the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department Aquatics Division to create dances at two Eastside community pools – Bartholomew Pool in 2017 and Dove Springs Pool in 2018 – and this month they’ll finish off the trilogy with Givens Swims, a dance that’ll take place at Givens Pool.

Like Bartholomew Swimsand Dove Springs Swimsbefore it, Givens Swimswill will not only take place at the titular pool; it’s also about the pool, its history, and the community it serves. It’ll be performed by members of the neighborhood and employees of the Aquatics Division.

“We’re gathering stories and of course the moves of the pool,” Marty says. “[From] people who have lived there, played there, worked there.”

Members of the Aquatics Division have worked on all of the dances in Forklift’s “My Park, My Pool, My City” project – consulting, dancing, even suggesting choreography. Jonathan “Tap” Tapscott, a longtime Aquatics Division employee, worked on Bartholomew Swims and Dove Springs Swims and was looking forward to starting work on Givens Swims, even if (at the time of this interview) he wasn't yet quite sure what Forklift was going to ask him to do this time around. 

“It’s a great group of people to work with,” Tapscott says. “Whenever we get together, it’s a lot of fun. And so when they start throwing ideas out, we just roll and see what we have to do.”

Forklift has also enlisted Ada Harden, a longtime community member, to participate in Givens Swims. She was living in the neighborhood when the pool first opened in 1958.

“Before that, it was just a big field,” Harden says. “My kids really enjoyed going – once they put the pool up – they really enjoyed going over there.”

Harden says she’ll help to supply some of the history of the neighborhood and the pool; at the time we spoke, there was still some discussion over whether she’d actually get into the pool during the performance.

“I tell you … I was in there and they were trying to teach me the routines,” she says. “And it was like, ‘I’m too old to be doing that.' But I found myself doing pretty good.”

In conjunction with the dance performance, an art installation by Cindy Elizabeth will be on display.

“Part of what I’m doing is going out into the community, getting to know people, hearing their stories, and creating art that is featuring both the faces and the stories of the community,” Elizabeth says. “I am actually from the community as well. I grew up going to Givens Park every day after school.”

Tapscott says he also spent much of his youth at Givens.

“Growing up, I lived in between both pools, so I spent time at Bartholomew and Givens,” he says. “But I can remember the Sundays at Givens. I mean, people everywhere, cars everywhere. Everybody’s having a good time. You would get up on a Sunday, go to church, and you get out of church … ‘Where you going?’ ‘We’re going to the park.’ When you say ‘park,’ you’re going to Givens. Sunday was Givens.”

That sense of community built around a neighborhood park and pool is at the heart of the “My Park, My Pool, My City” project, Marty says.

“The reason we’ve been doing this multiyear project… is to really get people thinking and really more aware of the pool system in Austin,” she says. “We want people to leave [the show] understanding the importance of Givens Pool and of pools in general as community gathering spaces … and to just learn more about this incredible neighborhood, this really important space.”

"Givens Swims" performances take place at Givens Pool on July 20, 21, 27 and 28. Admission is free but reservation are required at forkliftdanceworks.org