Fun Fish-herding Fluke
Posted on January 18, 2013 by Sophie Hook
In the icy-cool morning of Saturday January 12th 2013 a herd of local Scottsdale community members, Flam Chen performers, SRP and SPA workers gathered along the Scottsdale Waterfront to see the wonder that is the fish-herding. As part of routine SRP maintenance and repairs, the white Amur fish are corralled, hoisted and then transported to an alternative section of the Arizona canal during the dry-up period. An undertaking that will not been seen again in our area for the next seven years.
Purely there to assist SRP in their maintenance, the Amur are a sterile carp that help to control moss and weeds in the 131-mile canal system by eating them. These little, or rather big, fish are totally understated in our local community. It is with their help that we are able to sustain life in the desert. Most people do not recognize how special they are….and neither did we until the early hours of last Saturday morning…..
SPA invited Tucson-based performance group Flam Chen to highlight the spectacle of the fish-herding. The stilt-walkers reflected the process taking place in the canal, using themes such as capture, transportation and release in order to devise and choreograph a beautiful dance and movement performance along the banks of the Scottsdale Waterfront. Accompanying the Flam Chen stilt-walkers was a five-piece percussion group lead by master percussionist Richard Noel.
The event was in full swing –– SRP workers braving the bitterly cold water in order to gather the fish, over 100 people converging around the Waterfront, Richard Noel and his percussion band were making it difficult to keep our dancing feet still and Flam Chen graced the pathway between Soleri Bridge and Plaza and Marshall Way Bridge with their effervescent and infectious energy, helping us all to thaw out in the frosty sunrise at the Waterfront.
If you have ever seen a fish-herding before, you will know that usually it is utter chaos for the SRP workers to control the fish, who want to continue to swim upstream as the herding forces them in the opposite direction. Consequently, you will see lots of splashing around, forceful pushing and even the odd Amur flying wildly into the wind to try to escape the process.
However, on this occasion, this wasn’t happening. Were the fish just cold? We all wondered what made this experience different. It was then observed by SRP workers that something extremely unusual was happening –– the fish were swimming downstream! As soon as Richard Noel and his percussion band began to hit those drums and move downstream, the fish seemed to respond to it as a signal to turn around and head downstream too! They continued to swim downstream, in unison with Flam Chen, towards Marshall Way Bridge.
Now, while this may have made the viewing of the fish-herding not as dramatic as others, it made SRP’s job easier than usual. And, selFISHly, after the obnoxious sound of my alarm at 5am and the briskness of the 30-some degrees that lay in wait for me outside last Saturday morning, this made my day!
So, thanks to those SRP workers who had to trudge through the canal, to SPA and SRP staff who were up and smiling bright and early, to the community who joined us despite the freezing temperatures, and to Richard Noel and his percussion band for helping us discover something new and fascinating about the Amur. Most of all thanks to Flam Chen for choreographing the whole performance, grabbing our attention, relating to the fish in such a mindful way and for continuing to smile despite the chilly weather –– I am now completely and utterly ready to run away and join the Flam Chen circus!