Seen from the proper vantage point, the Schuylkill River can be one of Philadelphia’s loveliest, most bucolic settings. But as choreographer Alie Vidich points out, the banks along Kelly Drive aren’t always the best place to take in that view. “There’s always a sense of being rushed,” she says, “with all the joggers and runners along Kelly Drive. Even the river itself often has a frenetic pace because of all the boating activity.”
On the next two Sundays, Vidich hopes to change people’s perspective on the Schuylkill and their relationship with it in “Invisible River,” the latest performance piece by her dance theater company, Alie & The Brigade. The piece will greet visitors with a carnival of colorful animal sculptures created by artists from SpArc Philadelphia, a program for people with cognitive, intellectual and developmental disabilities. An ensemble of nine singing dancers will perform composer Elliott Harvey’s choral compositions while, in the distance, a pair of aerial dancers swing beneath Strawberry Mansion Bridge.
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“We want to slow down the sense of time that you naturally feel when you’re in that area,” Vidich says. “Even though the piece is spectacle, it doesn’t have a quickness to it. We’re trying to create an environment that asks whether this frenetic pace that we constantly operate on reflects back on how we look at the environment around us.”
After the performances, Vidich will speak to the audience about her hopes for an annual performing arts festival on the Schuylkill. Food will be available from Cosmic Cafe and Little Baby’s Ice Cream.
This is not the first time Vidich has ventured out onto the Schuylkill. In 2010 and 2011, she explored local history in works that took audience members into the water on canoe journeys. While viewers will stay on dry ground for this piece, Vidich still hopes to awaken awareness of the river and to advocate for swimming access to its waters. “I look at the rivers that are on both sides of our city,” she says. “We have so few recreational opportunities that aren’t walking, jogging or running, and boating is a very expensive sport for people to partake in. So for me, this is about psychologically reconnecting to your environment.”
June 16 and 23
Strawberry Mansion Bridge
Audience parking at 2200 Kelly Dr.