UH Mitchell Center's 'Afoot!' Steps into East End Street Fest

Performance Blends Talents of Guest Choreographers, Marching Bands

There won’t be a shortage of music at Houston’s East End Street Festival on Oct. 25. The daylong celebration will showcase a variety of acts, but the event’s largest musical ensemble won’t perform on stage. Instead, the nearly 300 musicians performing as part of “Afoot” will navigate the streets of the East End among festival-goers.

The University of Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts is delivering music and movement to Houston’s historical community. The performance “Afoot!” combines the talents of choreographers and three popular city marching bands – UH’s Spirit of Houston, Milby High School’s Marching Thunder, Austin High School’s Sonic Boom.

Directed by Allison Orr and Krissie Marty of Forklift Danceworks in Austin, Texas, “Afoot!” will kick off at 11 a.m. at the festival. Bands will be spread out along three blocks along Navigation Boulevard and will conduct “pop-up” performances.

“Festival-goers will be immersed in these three marching bands,” said Marty, director of education at Forklift Danceworks. “Everything will be at street level, so people will very engaged and involved with the performance.”

The performance will draw on the strengths of the participating ensembles. From the Spirit of Houston’s corps style of marching to the show style of the Sonic Boom and Marching Thunder, choreographers are bringing out the best in each band.

“As choreographers, we’re pulling out what the bands do best and showcase that in the performance,” Marty said. “It’s been fun to discover what these bands have and which instrument sections have specific personalities.”

In addition to oversight from Orr and Marty, several Houston choreographers are working with all of the bands. Participating choreographers include Harrison Guy of Houston’s Urban Souls Dance Company, Leslie Skates, Lydia Hance of Frame Dance Productions and breakdancer Joel Rivera.

Orr and Marty aren’t strangers to marching bands or to working with nondancers. At Forklift Danceworks, they have choreographed firefighters, a baseball team, sanitation workers, traffic officers and others.

“We often engage people who are not thought of as dancers,” Orr said. “We’ve transformed the movements of people’s work lives into a performance. We hope that this performance enlightens people’s understanding of what these bands do while celebrating the East End and the centennial of the Port of Houston.”

The East End Street Festival beings at 11 a.m. on Navigation Boulevard (between Jensen Street and Delano Street). Admission is free. The event is among several local celebrations commemorating the Port of Houston’s centennial. For more details, visit the festival’s website.

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts is dedicated to interdisciplinary collaboration across the performing, visual, and literary arts. Based at the University of Houston, the Mitchell Center commissions and produces new works, presents public performances and exhibitions, offers curriculum and scholarships, and hosts residencies with renowned visiting artists from throughout the world. The Center is home to the Mitchell Artist Lecture, an annual event featuring a pioneer in contemporary art-making, as well as CounterCurrent, an annual spring festival of new performance. The Mitchell Center forms an alliance among five departments at UH: the School of Art, Moores School of Music, School of Theatre & Dance, Creative Writing Program, and Blaffer Art Museum. For more information visit www.mitchellcenterforarts.org.