Nimble, fearless and almost always smiling, the Chinese Children's Palace of Hangzhou brought its 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 or 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 the unnamed girl balancing six plates on each hand mounted a 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 . . . until they saw Chen Haiying casually flip over while stacks of bowls clung to various portions of her anatomy, or Ruan Chenxi look comically anxious just before he entrusted his bantam weight to an impossibly tall and precarious perch jerry-rigged with steel pipes.
But it's hard to believe that authentic regional and national dances could be so stiffly repetitive, with such cloying tableaux.
The star of "Sea Fantasy" (billed as "a fisherman's ballet of wind and waves") was a large sheet, rippling and billowing as a result of patient manipulations by dancers stationed at each corner. Accompanied by insipid pop music, the seafarers flung up their arms and launched into back-bending jumps as if in mindless imitation of the excesses of Western and Soviet dance.