Invisible River — An Aerial Dance by Alie Vidich

Strawberry Mansion Bridge, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia
June 23, 2013

A Review

Alie Vidich and Evan Hoffman fly from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge.
Still captured from video by Jaques-Jean Tiziou

The weather was perfect. People gathered along the Schuylkill River early in the evening, and the atmosphere was festive. The river looked beautiful and the bridge loomed like a huge sculpture. At 8:15 the chorus, all dressed in white, entered and sang choral compositions by Elliott Harvey that were reminiscent of medieval madrigals. They moved in patterns choreographed to appear as apparitions among the picnickers.

As the chorus disappeared into the greenery, we became aware of two performers—Alie Vidich and Evan Hoffman—swinging on ropes from the bridge 65 feet above the river. They luxuriated in swinging freely back and forth and repelling off each other as the ropes slowly lowered them down to the river. Exactly at sunset they became silhouettes and appeared to be standing on the water, and then they sank into the river and swam to shore. It had all been an early summer night’s dream.

As an intern at Bearnstow (Mount Vernon, Maine), Alie Vichich had choreographed pieces that took place partly on the lake or appearing out of it, and that is where the seed for this piece was planted.

Arial dancers are slowly lowered to the river’s surface.
Still captured from video by Jaques-Jean Tiziou
But Alie took it many steps further, demonstrating her incredible bravery and commitment—leading her to swing on a rope 65 feet above the water (to get to the top of the arch the dancers had to climb up through the scaffolding). But also to take on a project of such proportions required permits and clearances from various city agencies—an enormous commitment and ability to deal with bureaucracy. In fact, on the afternoon of her first performance, she was almost arrested, as no one had advised the company that one more permit was needed: for the use of the parking lot performance space. The evening was saved by a reporter who intervened for them.

There was an after-party, with a DJ and lots of dancing and Alie talking about her plans for next year, of course involving the river. Alie’s goal is to make people more aware of the river and to have it designated as a swimming spot. With Alie’s determination, we’d better bring our swim suits.

—Virginia Dillon