Dancing over Philly’s hidden river

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On Friday and Saturday evening, the Strawberry Mansion Bridge along Philadelphia’s Kelly Drive will be decked out in silks and aerial equipment as it’s transformed into a dance stage.  

The organization “Invisible River” is offering its annual celebration of the city’s “hidden river,” the Schuylkill.  For four years, choreographer Alie Vidich has been helping people dance just  above the river’s surface.

In this year’s work, “Beck Epoch,” three dancers will perform above and in the water, while suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge. Vidich said she likes the challenge.

“There’s so many possibilities in the water,” she explained. “There’s so many things that you can do. The water is a viscous material that you can push through, and it slows down the swing, it slows down the turn.”

The end result looks graceful, with bodies gliding above the water. But co-choreographer Tatiana Hassan said the dancers must be ready to adapt. 

“When you’re choreographing for a concert dance in a studio, you are in control of the variables. Here, every day is different because nature behaves differently every day.

“You have the wind, the rain, the tides. So the element of unpredictability is really high. You have to be more flexible and be more into structured improvisation,” she said. “You have to move along with nature.”

This year’s performance adds more dancers than in previous years and a set design of silks streaming down from the bridge.

Beck Epoch is a companion event to Saturday’s Schuylkill River Arts Day, which will offer music, art activities, fishing and circus demonstrations along Kelly Drive.

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