Lauren Rile Smith
Lauren Rile Smith, Michael Ermilio (Photographer)

Body Movement as Art

She once suffered from chronic joint pain,  thinking of her body as an uncomfortable and untrustworthy place she simply occupied.

But today, Lauren Rile Smith does push-ups for fun. And that’s not all. Sometimes she’s using the same muscles to hang from ropes many feet above the ground. Sometimes, while holding on to some else with one hand.

Smith is a trapeze artist and the founder of Tangle Movement Arts an all-female circus arts company based in Philly.

“I couldn’t do a single push-up when I started taking circus classes,” she says. “But over time circus reframed my body into a project, a partner, a challenge, and a source of pleasure and self-expression.”

Smith says she was drawn to the circus because it’s an art form that inherently challenges notions of what humans can do with their bodies. Circus has the radical potential to question assumptions about bodies, gender, and the ways people relate to one another. Aerial acrobatics provides space for women building muscle, men moving gracefully, people who are not lovers being physically intimate, and everybody defying gravity.

In mainstream storytelling, says Smith, relationships between women are frequently erased or turned into stereotypes. Tangle’s performances counter that by projecting intimate and dynamic relationships between women who perform alongside each other and literally lift each others’ bodies.

Smith, along with her collaborators, produce two full-length aerial dance theatre shows each year, as well as a free, outdoor showcase series called tinycircus during the warmer months.

Tangle’s next performance is August 2nd, as part of the HOT! Festival at Dixon Place in NYC. The HOT! Festival is the longest-running queer performance festival in the US. With acrobat swings, climbs, and weaves through suspended loops and strands of rope, the artists will perform “Loop”, a mesmerizing show that explores repetition and difference, unexpected doppelgangers, relationships between strong women, the ties that bind, and choices that may change in an instant.

Performances reflect individuals of diverse identities, with an emphasis on queer and female experience, and all of  Tangle’s shows are collaboratively devised by the whole company.

Don’t miss them (