Last Friday night at the Granada Theatre, a rapt audience watched athletes perform feats of physical strength, agility, and grace that many would have assumed impossible. In celebration of the Chinese New Year, traditional dragons opened the evening, dancing and frolicking, each formed by two people-one supporting the front legs and the head, the other the rest of the body. For such potentially fierce creatures, the dragons were surprisingly puppy-like, sitting up, rolling over, and tossing a ball back and forth with their mouths. So fluid were their movement as they leapt up onto platforms and performed increasingly complex tricks, it was easy to forget there were two separate people involved in the illusion.

The Peking Acrobats brought their stunning gymnastic skills to the Granada last Friday night.
Paul Wellman

The pace of the show increased as members of the troupe began to balance, juggle, and contort their bodies. A group of men leapt through rings placed several feet off the stage, launching themselves forward, backward, and sideways. A woman juggled a large ceramic urn and then a table : with her feet. A pair of men in chef’s uniforms kept at least three dozen plates spinning at once, all the while engaged in a vaudeville-style pantomime. A woman in toe shoes, after a stunning display of balletic contortions, balanced en pointe on top of her partner’s head.

The high point of the evening, so to speak, occurred when a man balanced a large chair on top of four bottles. He proceeded to climb onto the chair and another chair was brought to him, which he balanced onto the first and climbed onto it. This process continued until he had stacked seven more chairs onto the first and stood balanced high above the stage, close to the ceiling of the Granada.

This was one of several moments in the show that was physically stressful to watch; the performers had no nets, and the tiniest miscalculation could have resulted in disaster. The adrenaline rush was part of the excitement, and there were many occasions when the audience gasped or laughed out loud in delight. In the finale, when a dozen acrobats waving bright silk fans rolled onstage balanced on a single bicycle, the effect was one of pure joy.


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