Monday, March 30, 2015

Bridge Dance Overcomes Troubled Waters

Nearly closed by police and thunderstorms, this dance under the Strawberry Mansion Bridge on the Schuylkill held us in suspense.

Bridge Dance Overcomes Troubled Waters

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Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer
Posted: Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 3:01 AM

Last weekend's Invisible River - an aerial dance/music project to be staged under and around the Strawberry Mansion Bridge by Alie Vidich & the Brigade - nearly became Invisible Dance.


Though Vidich and her team had worked for eight months to secure permits through the Fairmount Park Special Events Office, the bridges division of the City Streets Department, and the state Fish and Boat Commission, no one told them they also needed to notify the Office of Public Safety. Which meant that on Friday, as the troupe prepared for an on-site rehearsal, police warned them that if they attempted to mount the bridge, they'd be arrested.

But Vidich and her supporters aimed to fly. Through Facebook, Twitter, phone, and e-mail they contacted Gary Steuer, the city's chief cultural officer, and his deputy Moira Baylson, who scrambled to clear the runway. The result: On Sunday evening, as a rain shower ended and spectators began arriving at St. Joseph's Boathouse, Vidich, Evan Hoffman, and lead rigger Daniel Porter began crawling up the center beam of the first of the bridge's four bowstring arches. It took half an hour to ensure the harnesses and wiring would safely suspend the two.

Soon a choir of vocalized vowel sounds by Elliott Harvey wafted from speakers, as nine dancers paced the parking lot and ran through the crowd toward the pair, now dangling midway between the Schuylkill and the apogee of the arch.

With rosy clouds blushing across blue sky behind them, they swooped into backbends that echoed the bridge, one or the other lowering toward the water. They x-ed and windmilled their bodies, drew close to each other, kicked away, extended one leg upward, arms reaching for the water, or rested limbs on one another. A canoe hovering behind one of the piers began to move toward them. As the sun set, they slowly descended into the water and swam to the riverbank. Cheers erupted from the crowd as the idyllic imagery ended.

Vidich wants to open the river and its banks "to create an annual Schuylkill River performing arts festival that advocates for public swimming access in the river." She has proven that this kind of aerial work can be done safely and beautifully. Even the police officers on hand, quizzical at first, seemed, by the end, entranced.

Additional performance: 8 p.m. Sunday, 2200 Kelly Dr., next to St. Joseph's University Boathouse in Fairmount Park. http://www.alieandthebrigade.org/upcoming--past-events.html.

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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