Tangle Movement Arts is Philadelphia’s queer female aerial dance company and the perennial Fringe Arts Festival performers. This month, the stuntwomen will surround audiences with their latest show “In The Forest,” which will turn The Sanctuary at the Rotunda into a wooded wonderland.
For Lauren Rile Smith — poet, performer, founder and producer of Tangle Movement Arts — this show is just another way to challenge herself creatively after last year’s event, when she was performing aerial stunts while visibly pregnant.
“I had a child last summer,” Smith said. “Now I’m adjusting to that life. But we’ve really ramped up the changes this year. For the first time ever, we’re making an immersive circus-theater show with the audience at the center of an 80-foot-diameter room.”
She added this year’s inspiration for the Fringe performance was exploring the meaning of home, the joy of found family and the fierceness of taking care of what’s yours.
“We found ourselves interested in creating a portrait of an entire world and ecosystem. The show is about very different people existing in the same space, sometimes not even aware of each other, but still affecting each other in deep ways.”
The space is divided into seven sections, Smith explained. “We have the aerial rigs, so there is near- constant aerial dance happening in the show. We also have four sculptural installations that we are calling forests. We have a forest made out of chairs. We have a forest made out of yarn sculptures and fabrics, and we have a forest made out of shadows and paper.”
The show’s characters are all at home in these different forests and also forced to travel into each other’s territories, shesaid, “grappling with what it means to be a stranger in someone else’s space, or a collaborator with someone who is very unlike yourself.”
Smith added that to create the different and proper environments for these diverse characters, the collaborators brought different styles and artists to the creative table.
“We have puppetry, origami, live music and textiles. There’s a huge array of performance styles and techniques coming forth in the show through the different character arcs.”
The result is that each audience member will be constantly choosing which story to follow and which angle to take, Smith said.
“The audience is invited to wander around the space and change their perspective. It’s exciting and intimate to watch an aerial solo happen a few feet away. There’s this special, magical, allegorical world that the audience becomes immersed in. The unique and historic space of The Rotunda is as much a part of and a character in the show as any performer.”
Tangle Movement Arts presents “In The Forest,” Sept. 12-15 at The Sanctuary at The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St. For more information or tickets, visit www.tangle-arts.com/in-the-forest.