By Len Lear
Seven women gather for a dinner party that turns surreal when Tangle’s aerial acrobats climb the curtains, cartwheel across tables, carry each other around, make new enemies and friends and resist the pull of gravity in their dynamic new show, “You Don’t Say.” On Thursday, Sept. 13 (8 p.m.), Friday, Sept. 14 (8 p.m.) and Saturday, Sept. 15 (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.), Tangle will bring their new work to Philadelphia Soundstages at 1600 N. 5th St. in Northern Liberties.
In “You Don’t Say,” Tangle’s innovative circus-theater style animates the dramas, intrigues and fresh connections that happen at a gathering of old and new friends. A party guest gets bored and starts climbing on the furniture. A trapeze doubles as a loveseat for a budding romance while small talk between strangers turns into a gymnastic exploration of chairs, tables and one another. Two women work out their frustration and flirtation in a dance that traverses the room and reaches the ceiling. Tangle’s athletic aerial dance tells the story of a complex web of friendship and community.
“We’re really proud of ‘You Don’t Say’s’ innovative mix of dance, theater and aerial acrobatics — a contemporary circus style that’s perfect for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival,” said Tangle founder Lauren Rile Smith, a native of Chestnut Hill. “Our show is about the energy and connections between a group of female friends. It’s exciting to showcase female strength and relationships with the literal, physical support we provide one another as aerial acrobats.
“One of our performers will be seven months pregnant during the show. Let me tell you—trapeze is really hard, and it’s even harder when you’re doing pull-ups for two! Tangle is all about diverse expressions of female strength, so I love it.”
Tangle Movement Arts is an eight-woman movement arts company with an interdisciplinary focus, performing all over Philadelphia. Working in traditional circus disciplines like trapeze, aerial silks, rope, partner balancing and acrobatics, as well as music, drama and spoken word, Tangle’s unique performance style captivates audiences and tells a multi-dimensional story.
“You Don’t Say” stars both founder Lauren and her sister, Pascale. They trained their aerial acrobatic art at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts in Germantown. The Philadelphia City Paper recently wrote about them: “More than just a trapeze act … there is a wisdom and elegance here, showing us that circus arts are much more than girls on ponies.”
Lauren is a poet as well as a performer. While growing up in Chestnut Hill, she was home-schooled, but she graduated from Swarthmore College in 2008. She now works at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Pennsylvania (“Lifting heavy folios is great cross-training for a trapeze artist”) and is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in West Philadelphia, where she is currently growing tomatoes, beans, broccoli, zucchini, cantaloupes and raspberries on her roof.
Lauren is understandably proud of her super-talented family. “My sister Caeli Smith, a Juilliard violinist, is a YouTube celebrity in the world of classical music, with over 4 million views,” she said, “and Pascale is a talented songwriter, award-winning playwright and actor who also produced her own Philly Fringe Festival show, ‘BASH.’ And Pascale appeared in M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Village’ in 2004, so she’s already more famous than I’ll ever be.”
Tickets for any of the three performances of “You Don’t Say”are $10-15, with a discount for students and theatergoers under 25. They can be purchased at the door or through the Live Arts and Philly Fringe box office. Tangle will also perform at the Go West Craft Fest on Saturday, Sept. 29, 3 p.m., at the historic Woodlands Estate, 4000 Woodland Ave. in West Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe were originally founded in 1997 as the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Today, the Live Arts Festival serves as a series of selected cutting-edge, boundary-breaking performing arts events, created by some of the most renowned contemporary artists from our region and around the world.