You can be sure of one thing whenever Chinese acrobats perform: However simple an act starts out, it will become far more complex--and even more breathtaking--by the end.
Thus, the Peking Acrobats regularly passed from the seemingly impossible to the virtually unbelievable Saturday at Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton. (The performance was sponsored by Cal State Fullerton.)
It wasn't enough that two men in a lion's costume managed to leap onto a giant beach ball and stay balanced on it. They then had to walk it up and down a see-saw.
Nor was it sufficient for a man only to squeeze his way through a 14-inch metal hoop. He did the same thing with an equally narrow barrel: but first, the easy way--by going head first; then, by sitting in it and folding himself up in half.
Again and again, what amazed at the beginning proved just a warm-up, and though the Chinese had too much class to voice it, you could almost hear a ringmaster saying, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!"
So after bending herself backwards into seemingly unendurable positions, a woman contortionist proceeded to spin circles of fabric on one foot, then on both, then on both feet and both hands--at the end doing all this while holding herself up by her mouth, biting onto a metal clamp.
Bicycle acts, comic interludes, wire walking, gymnastics, strongman and foot juggling acts demonstrated their own versions of this imaginatively additive mania.
Modern technology, too, was enlisted for these centuries-old traditions, with black-light used to make two giant dragons, manipulated by runners, seem to fly magically in the air.
A little spill at the end of one of the bicycle acts and some porcelain cups getting jostled and chipped in a balancing act made the evening even more accessible, reminding us that real people, not clock-work mechanisms, were performing.
The 25-member troupe, warmly received by the Fullerton audience, also is scheduled to appear at El Camino College in Torrance on Thursday and at Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena on Saturday and Sunday.