Finding the Hidden River

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Photo by Lindsay Browning

Invisible River Public Art Performance on the Schuylkill

Advocates for Increased Access

Alie Vidich, a Philadelpha-based choreographer and dancer, is on a mission to make the Schuylkill River more accessible—and more visible. In Invisible River, a public art and boating event on July 12 and 13, Vidich and her troupe of 30 performers will use the "infinite space" on and around the Schuylkill as a stage for unique performances and art pieces celebrating the river and its history. By inviting people to experience the river in a completely new way, Vidich hopes to reveal the hidden possibilities of increased public access to the Schuylkill, which means "hidden river" in Dutch.

Invisible River will take participants on a 2.5 mile journey along the Schuylkill in a flotilla of kayaks, dragon boats, skiffs, and rowboats. Along the way, participants will hear a dramatic telling of the river's environmental history and a "neo-Medieval" musical ensemble as they witness original, temporary sculpture installations and dance performances, including an exciting aerial piece by dancers suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge.

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Photo by Alan F. DiBerioVidich anticipates a crowd of 400 for the July 12-13 performances, an impressive growth from her first production on the river in 2010-2011, Constants, which garnered an intimate audience of around 30. After a year of brainstorming, researching and planning, Vidich launched the first iteration of Invisible River in 2013, widely considered a success despite a few last-minute licensing snags. She hopes to turn the event into an annual Schuylkill River performing arts festival that advocates for increased swimming and boating access by connecting people who care about the river and inviting them to experience it firsthand.

"Access to recreation, access to your watersheds, access to being able to enjoy urban nature—those things are all things that I believe in," she says. "I think people coming to the event believe in [them] too."

Invisible River will take place 6:15 p.m. July 12-13. The boat journey starts and ends at the Dragon Boat Dock on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and tickets range from $25 to $70, with optional paddling lessons and guides. Audience members can also watch for free—in prime position to witness the aerial performance—from the grandstand at the East Park Canoe House on Kelly Drive. To learn more or to purchase tickets, visitinvisibleriver.org.