Dancing on the Schuylkill

Alie Vidich plans for dancers on the Schuylkill for “Invisible River.”

This summer, aerial dancers will suspend from bridges over the Schuylkill River while onlookers will be able to gaze from boats.

The driving force behind this event is choreographer Alie Vidich.

This elaborate sky ballet is a part of the “Invisible River” dance that will take place July 12-13, which will be hosted by Vidich’s organization, Alie + the Brigade.

After working independent jobs as a choreographer for about five years, Vidich said she wanted to organize her work in a more formal way, so she created Move and the Brigade in 2009. It was later renamed to Alie + the Brigade and will undergoing another name change to Invisible River later this year.

“This past year I was like, ‘You know what, I’m an individual artist so I should give myself more credit,’” Vidich said. “I guess it was more of a brand established around the work I have done, but I’m going to change the name to Invisible River since that’s our main focus project.”

Dancing since she was a teen, Vidich said she would go to a studio close to where she grew up to experiment with a choreography class.

“I was just experiencing what it is to really dance,” Vidich said.

It wasn’t until she was 20 that she started working professionally with dance while working other side jobs.

“I’ve always loved performance and performing,” Vidich said. “I enjoy being outside, even in an urban situation, really my work comes from my own personal interests.”

Vidich’s love for nature has shown through her events, including her largest, Invisible River, where performers dance on, along and above the Schuylkill River.

After brainstorming with her brother while out on canoes, Vidich said she realized she wanted to get people to come out to the river as well.

Being in a major metropolitan area, Vidich said she sees the importance of still trying to be close to nature.

“Most of us live pretty frantic lives, especially in the city,” Vidich said. “We don’t get to expose ourselves too much to natural life, so nature can bring us to a calmer place on a regular basis since we are usually surrounded with man-made materials. The outdoors, it can really give us a greater sense of the world and remind us that not everything is made by us, by man.”

Vidich’s high priority for a calmer life and for things such as nature has drawn in other people. Janet Clarkson, who was new to the Philadelphia area at the time, said she was looking for a way to be active and to meet other people who also shared similar interests in theater, art, nature and the environment.

Hearing about Vidich’s group, Clarkson decided to join, despite the fact that she had never danced before.

Clarkson’s first event was the 2013 Invisible River. She’ll be taking part in this year’s event, too.

“It was actually very life-changing,” Clarkson said. “I’m a woman of a certain age, mid-‘40s, not quite as attractive as I used to be, so this was kind of a challenge to put myself out there for all to see and be part of something beautiful. It was very empowering. Just such a, very, very empowering experience. I am incredibly proud of myself because, you know, I’m not a performer – I wasn’t one, at least.”

This year, there will be four main sections where the performances will take place – there will be a shallow area on the river, called St. Peter’s Island where there will be dancers.

There will also be aerial performances on the bridge, as well as another performance near Kelly Drive. There will be more than 60 boats so some can be on the river for the event, while others can watch from land.

The beginning stages of rehearsals for the 2014 Invisible River have recently started. Right now, the group is in the middle of techniques and skill, and after Passover they will be focusing more on choreography. Clarkson is excited about all of the steps involved, she said.

“[Vidich] is great at helping us; it’s a pleasure to see her teach,” Clarkson said. “Soon we will all be comfortable and have awareness and move together as one.”

Chelsea Finn can be reached at chelsea.finn@temple.edu

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