Nimble, fearless and almost always smiling, the Chinese Children's Palace of Hangzhou brought their own form of variety show to the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Sunday afternoon. When they weren't tossing off astounding acrobatic feats, this troupe of children and teen-agers from Zhejiang Province lunged sturdily through a clutch of more-athletic-than-aesthetic dances and offered earnest recitals on native instruments.
Twirling on long sticks held by three girls, white dinner plates looked like weightless flower petals shimmering in the sun. When an unidentified girl balancing six plates on each hand mounted a daunting stack of benches, stood on her head and bent backward to pick up a flower in her teeth--the plates still in motion--she instantly became the audience's darling.
That is, until they saw Chen Haiying casually flip over while stacks of bowls clung to various portions of her anatomy; or until they saw Ruan Chenxi look comically anxious just before he entrusted his bantam weight to an almost impossibly tall and precarious perch jerry-rigged with steel pipes.
Judging from eruptions of giggles among smaller audience members, the simple, knockabout humor of Gang and Qiang Shao belonged to the same perfect universe as Sunday-morning cartoons.