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WITH THE KIDS

They'll love it (but they shouldn't try it at home)

January 10, 2008|Alex Chun

Balancing your entire body on just one hand would be a feat in itself. Now imagine doing that 20 feet in the air and perched atop five precariously stacked chairs and you've got one of the many "how'd they do that?" moments that make up a New Shanghai Circus performance.

Fresh off a two-month off-Broadway run, the 20-person acrobat troupe will be leaping, tumbling and bounding its way into Citrus College's Haugh Performing Arts Center for three shows on Saturday (a full evening show plus two hourlong children-oriented matinees) and then into Pepperdine University's Smothers Theatre for a sold-out performance on Sunday.

While most Angelenos have at least a passing familiarity with acrobatics thanks to Cirque du Soleil, Chinese acrobatics trace their origins to the annual Lunar New Year village harvest celebrations of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). And with that much time to practice, it's no wonder Chinese acrobats are among the most skilled in the world.

"Cirque du Soleil concentrates more on how to package a show, and many of their shows are for adults only," says Kate Kong, stage manager for the 50-year-old "new" Shanghai Circus. "We're a show where the whole family is welcome, and our show concentrates on acrobatic skills."

These skills include hoop diving, knife throwing, human pyramids, contortion, martial arts and balancing 20-some glasses on the tip of a nose. The show also includes acts with a more modern bent like "bike-pool" (a play on carpool), which features 11 performers sharing a bicycle.

"Acrobatics are an ancient art of China," says Kong, "but the whole world has changed, so we wanted to make this Asian art form more contemporary. But whether traditional or modern, good acrobatics is a language everyone understands."

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theguide@latimes.com

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INCREDIBLE ACROBATS OF CHINA: NEW SHANGHAI CIRCUS

WHERE: Haugh Performing Arts Center, Citrus College, 1000 W. Foothill Blvd., Glendora

WHEN: 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m. (Saturday Series for Kids matinees) and 8 p.m. Sat.

PRICE: Kids matinees are $6; 8 p.m. performance is $26, $24 for students and seniors, $13 for youths 16 and younger

INFO: (626) 963-9411; www.haughpac.com

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WHERE: Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

WHEN: 2 p.m. Sun.

PRICE: $35, $20 for youths 17 and younger (sold out; check online for tickets)

INFO: (310) 506-4522; www.pepperdine.edu/arts

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