Invisible River

Art — Produced by Michael O’Reilly

Alie Vidich, the force behind the INVISIBLE RIVER organization, describes the event they put on as a “public art and boating event in which the audience travels on the Schuylkill river and, from the river and the banks, watches dance and music performances”.

That description does little to describe the power one feels as an audience of hundreds of people moves between multiple tableaux, here on the bank, there on an island – using any conveyance they can – on foot, by boat, some even on bike. All the while, they are accompanied by a vessel that announces itself and shepherds its flotilla with strains of synthetic ambient music that flow out of powerful speakers like water. At another point, this loose armada is serenaded by a skillful guitar, the Schuylkill river a surprisingly appropriate substitute for a glassy Venetian canal, guided by the music made by what can only be described as gliding gondoliers. At the apex of it all, and what we are all moving towards, hang Alie and her collaborator, Amy Lynne Barr. They are suspended just inches above the water from a 50 foot harness, attached to the underside of the Strawberry Mansion Bridge. They swing and pivot and fly above the water in what must be the dance of the water sprites, though that was never the intention of either Amy or Alie, to hear them tell it.

Not only does FRIDAY ARTS get up close with the creators, composers and choreographers of this event, we traveled on the boat with the composer of all that music, Mike Wall, got into a dragon boat powered by the Philadelphia Police Dragon boat team, climbed the struts of the Strawberry Mansion Bridge to hang the lines from which the dancers will twirl, and finally end up earthbound watching from shore. INVISIBLE RIVER started out as a performance with as many dancers as audience members and it has grown into a platform for multidisciplinary art as well as environmental activism surrounding the river, both of which are now developed year round through the organization of the same name.

Rigging the Bridge

Damean Snyder, certified arborist and owner of Terraquarbor, a small, full-service tree care and landscaping company with a focus on sustainable practices, climbs the Strawberry Mansion Bridge in order to secure the lines dancers Alie Vidich and Amy Lynne Barr will dangle from during their INVISIBLE RIVER 2014 performance. Damean brings the viewer on his dramatic, yet secure climb, to reveal jaw-dropping views of the Schuylkill River. Edited by Ellen Francis

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