whirling silver hoops
around her slender frame
suddenly a slinky
Once again this year we are fortunate to have the National Acrobats and Circus of the People's Republic of China perform at the Sondheim Theater. This year's performance, Peking Dreams, combines dazzling costumes with breathtaking feats of acrobatics. The show begins with a graceful parade of women in traditional costumes.
Acrobats tumble through the air as standard bearers wave enormous red silk flags.
A group of contortionists balance on top of each other. All of these acts require tremendous strength as well as incredible flexibility, dexterity and balance.
Women twist and back bend, all the while spinning sets of four plates on long sticks in each hand. One would be hard enough, but eight!
Above them a woman balances a vase of flowers at the end of a stick held in her mouth while she slowly lowers herself to hang upside down by one foot from a strap suspended from the ceiling.
A man wearing only a pair of gray silk pants walks with deliberate steps across the stage. Slowly he climbs a pole. Holding the pole with only his hands, he extends his whole body upside down, sideways. Then he balances on one hand at the top.
Look at those muscles!
After a group of women in red costumes form a pyramid, an assistant tosses large red fabric discs to them, which they catch and spin with their hands while their feet hold up the acrobats above them. The woman at the top is balancing upside down, spinning a disk on her feet.
A group of men in blue vests dive and tumble through rings with incredible agility as the rings become progressively higher. This man is doing the splits as he dives through the rings!
The last man, wearing a red vest, dives through the highest set of rings, while his companions form an expectant line.
A group of men demonstrate their skill with lassos, tumbling through their own or another's lasso.
One woman climbs a streamer of purple silk, weaving it around her arms and legs, then hangs by her mouth from the top.
A troop of women in exotic costumes and umbrellas pose gracefully.
The star juggler spins umbrellas on her fingers and toes while she balances upside down on a man's feet. At the end, she tosses one umbrella up to balance on top of another one.
Then she keeps hoops going around her body and in her hands as more and more are tossed to her by an assistant.
Finally, bending backwards, she turns a whole raft of hoops into a silver slinky.
Next, in a comic scene, a man dressed in traditional operatic costume attempts to woe a veiled woman, carried in a cart, with a rose, which she continuously throws at his feet.
To entertain the reluctant woman and her suitor, the retainers begin juggling their hats. The woman finally lifts her veil and we see that she (played by a man) is quite ugly!
Eleven women in pink costumes demonstrate their skill on bicycles and a unicycle, singly and in unison. Here they wheel around the stage, one arm behind their neighbor's back, the other raised high, maneuvering in tandem with no hands on the handlebars.
For their final stunt, one by one they run and mount a single bike until eleven women, and over a thousand pounds, are balancing on one moving set of wheels. How can the cyclist at the bottom even see?!
The final act of the show features the same man who climbed the pole. While women beat large red drums, he mounts a series of chairs, the top one set at an angle, and balances upside down on the top of the tipped chair.
For the ultimate feat, he builds two columns of blocks and balances upside down on them. As we hold our breath, he knocks one column down. Now he is balancing vertically on only one hand. You can see the blocks falling to the floor while his feet are almost as high as the stage lights.
Somersaulting down, he lands upright on the tower of chairs.
And so this dazzling performance ends as all the performers appear on stage and the audience rises to their feet to applaud.