The Peking Acrobats: A 2000-year-old Tradition Comes to Life

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by Michelle McChrisite

With a fascinating display of strength, agility, grace and balance, The Peking Acrobats dazzled the audience during their April 22 performance at the TBCA. The troupe is among the premiere Chinese acrobatic companies and continue to redefine their ancient art form after almost three decades of performing. The youthful and gifted acrobats, gymnasts, contortionists, and jugglers performed incredible feats that were beyond what one might imagine is humanly possible and repeatedly defied the laws of physics. Each member of the troupe was as talented and entertaining as the next, including the musicians that played traditional Chinese instruments, such as the beautiful and soothing harp or Guzheng.

Describing their performance with words cannot do it justice: elegant young women tumbled across the stage while spinning multiple plates on sticks; boys tumbled through hoops upwards of six feet high; a man performed a handstand, unsupported, on an alternating stack of six chairs with the bottom chair’s legs balanced precariously on glass bottles set on a table. Audience members with a fear of heights no doubt had sweaty palms as acrobats spiraled their bodies into and out of various positions while suspended by strips of fabric above the stage.

The few errors were quickly forgotten as the troupe moved swiftly from one mesmerizing act to the other, changing their colourful costumes and exchanging their props. The appreciative audience rose to their feet for multiple standing ovations, and at least one enthusiastic fan was heard exclaiming “wow!” throughout their stunning performance. Though he might have been a little rowdy for the TBCA, he was simply vocalizing what everyone was thinking.