“I love the chance to have a dozen women perform on stage together, with different body types, gender presentations, and personal styles, and illuminate their individual stories and their interactions.”
Circus arts has taken root in Philadelphia over the past several years, with a number of artists and companies opening up creative approaches that push the form in new directions. Tangle Movement Arts, one such company, integrates typical circus elements, such as acrobatics, into dance and theater. This weekend the company’s new production Timelines uses this combination to create a narrative about time, evolution, and the female body, spanning past, present, and future eras. The show premieres at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 North American Street, April 3 to April 5. We caught up with artistic director Lauren Rile Smith who filled us in on the inspiration for Timelines, the women performing in the show, and the performance space.
FringeArts: How did the idea for Timelines begin and how did it evolve?
Lauren Rile Smith: Like the rest of Tangle’s shows, Timelines was built by all the performers in a long-term collaborative process. We started sharing ideas and putting together the concept in October 2013, right after our Fringe Festival performance Break/Drift/Resist. This show’s theme is female bodies in time, so it developed into a mix of shorter aerial solos that focus on aspects like evolution, healing, and aging, even comic timing—and then, for our final act, a half-hour long ensemble piece inspired by tropes from feminist science fiction. The final act, “Tomorrow Girl,” is a fantasy of time-travel in which a 1950s secretary daydreams of a radically different future—and then finds herself transported there.
FringeArts: Are you working with any new performers for Timelines? What are some of things you are doing that are new for a Tangle performance?
Lauren: Timelines includes Tangle’s core nine-woman ensemble, plus a few guest artists, including Meredith Rosenthal and Caitlin Donaghy. Meredith’s act echoes life evolving on earth millennia ago, rising out of the ocean and into the air via body contortion and aerial rope. Caitlin is a hoop artist, and she, Lee Ane Thompson, and I are creating a three-person dance that moves between the ground and the air, inspired by the precise mechanism of clockwork and the lightning-quick connections you might make when meeting a new person for the first time.
Additionally, I’m excited that our friends Megan Gendell and Lauren Feldman from the world-famous New England Center for Circus Arts will be performing as special guest artists. Their dynamic, playful duo trapeze act is really stunning and I got to preview it when we performed with them at the HOT! Festival in Manhattan last year. We’re thrilled to have them perform with us in Philadelphia!
FringeArts: What makes you most excited about this show?
Lauren: I love the chance to have a dozen women perform on stage together, with different body types, gender presentations, and personal styles, and illuminate their individual stories and their interactions. From a storytelling perspective, I’m most looking forward to Timeline‘s big finale, which is a love letter to science-fiction tropes. In creating it, we talked a lot about movement styles for different people and times: if the 1950s secretaries have very purposeful, direct gestures, maybe the people of the future are fluid and indirect by contrast, and they would consider, for example, a handshake to be the height of rudeness. We got to explore a lot of swinging, spinning, sliding movements for the people of the future, including my personal favorite, a brand-new aerial apparatus made of multiple loops suspended from the ceiling.
And purely from my perspective as a producer, I’m very excited to be at Christ Church Neighborhood House, a beautiful theater. Tangle’s full-length performances have typically taken place in giant warehouses where we build a temporary theater just for the length of the show so it’s a big treat to have lighting, seating, and a tech booth already in place! And the Neighborhood House brings together such a great range of smart, innovative dance and theater; we’re glad to be joining their community.
Sweet, thanks Lauren, we look forward to the performance!
April 3 + 4 at 8pm
April 5 at 3pm + 8pm
Christ Church Neighborhood House
Tickets ($15-20) available at www.tangle-arts.com
Photos: Anne Saint Peter (top), Michael Ermilio (bottom)