Tangle Movement Arts is a Philadelphia based circus arts company with a
contemporary twist, whose performances mix traditional circus like trapeze and
acrobatics with dance, theater, and live music to tell a multi‐dimensional story.
The company debuted their first performance at the Fringe Arts Festival in
Philadelphia in 2011 and has performed there every year since. Au’loni Magazine
got a chance to sit down with Tangle’s founder Lauren Smith, as she just finished the
fifth consecutive run at the Fringe Arts Festival and ninth show overall.
“It has been really fun to develop an identity and following in Philly over the past
five years in our sort of obscure art form,” Smith tells.
The contemporary circus arts movement has exploded over the past ten years in the
U.S with companies like Cirque du Soleil and others that combine the techniques of
circus arts with the storytelling of dance and theater. These events typically take on
the setting of an intimate black box theater environment rather than the spectacle of
“Tangle was founded to use the contemporary circus genre to tell stories of
our lives in a more intimately relatable way. Circus arts allows us to literalize
metaphors about human connection, strength or what happens when someone lets
you down – literally, ” Smith recounts.
What differentiates Tangle Movements Arts from other companies is that Tangle’s
work is devised collaboratively by its all‐female ensemble. Tangle seeks to challenge
gender norms since circus arts have the unique ability as a platform to question
gender and show strength from both sexes. It is an art form where women build
muscle and men move gracefully and everybody picks each other up.
What was the thought and purpose behind an all-female cast?
“I wanted to create a feminist circus theater show. We were specifically interested in
telling feminist stories and centering queer and female experience. We are very
committed to showing a range of body shapes, sizes, and gender representation on
stage and we seek to show diverse icons of female strength.”
“In the world of circus, much like the world of theater and the mainstream media it
is relatively rare to see relationships between women being centered, whether it be
passionate, platonic, antagonistic, long friendships, or any other type of relationship,
it’s just not a priority in a lot media. We found it important to our identity and
mission to center an abundance of these relationships.”
What is the best advice you ever received and how has it helped you on your
journey of founding Tangle?
“You may not be entitled to success, but you are entitled to your vision. There is no
reason to feel silly about the desire to do this. It’s ok to embrace it and say that you
are really going to go for it.” I think that platform was really empowering and gave
us this incredible opportunity to connect with our audience in Philadelphia.”
What’s next for Tangle Movement Arts?
“This is our fifth year running and our next big show in March is at the Christ Church
Neighborhood House in Old City. We are going to do a five‐year anniversary show.
We’d be really excited to look back on prior performances and revitalized some of
our past shows, so that is the progress check we are just starting on.
The theme of the show is still in the works and the creative aspects are just
beginning to get off the ground. I do have a working title in mind that I haven’t
shared with anyone yet, “High Five”. We will see how that one sticks in the next
Tangle Movement Arts also offers classes every Saturday for those interested in
circus arts, whether it be for fitness or performance practice. Lauren Smith teaches
trapeze classes, which are mixed level, beginner friendly, and stress a body positive
For more information about classes, check out Tangle Arts Movement’s website
Also, check them out on social media: