Venue: Chaoyang Theater
Duration: 1 hour (daily 1515 and 1915)
Summary: Acrobatics is the performance of extraordinary feats of balance, agility and motor coordination. It can be found in many of the performing arts, and in many sports.
Acrobatics is the performance of extraordinary feats of balance, agility and motor coordination. It can be found in many of the performing arts, and in many sports. Acrobatics is most often associated with activities that make extensive use of gymnastic skills, such as circus, and gymnastics, but many other athletic activities, such as Wushu, ballet and diving may also employ elements of acrobatics. Items in Chinese acrobatics include the universally recognised Lion Dance, oral stunts, pagoda of bowls, juggling, wire walking etc.
Acrobatics is a pearl in the treasure house of the traditional Chinese performing arts.
In China, acrobatics have been a part of the culture since the Western Han Dynasty, over 2500 years ago. Acrobatics originated as part of village harvest festivals called “Hundred Plays” then were adopted as general entertainment. During the Tang Dynasty, acrobatics saw much the same sort of development as European acrobatics saw during the Middle Ages, with imperial court displays from the 7th through the 10th centuries dominating the practice. Acrobatics became known worldwide through performances presented along the Silk Road. Acrobatics continues to be an important part of modern Chinese variety art.
Chinese acrobatics training stresses the importance of developing strength and control of the head, neck, waist and legs.
That strength, confidence and fearlessness are critical requisites of a skilled acrobat becomes clear when we realise that the somersaults, leaps and lifts, the incredible feats of balance, coordination and strength are real; the items produced by the conjurers, the tables and bowls of water, often containing live fish, the large porcelain jars balanced and tumbled with apparent ease; all these things are identical to the everyday items we could buy in shops.
Unlike western magicians, whose props are part of a stage set, and employ smoke, mirrors, electronics and lighting effects, a Chinese acrobatic conjurer has to carry these items upon their person throughout their act, concealed beneath a loose gown till the climactic moment when they produce them to a stunned audience. Usually, that moment comes during a series of gymnastic feats including somersaults and spins that are awe-inspiring in their own right.
Such dramatic feats are possible only after many years of hard training, including study of the philosophy and a total devotion to perfecting the skills of KongFu. Without basic training in Kongfu, it is impossible to hold and balance a hundred kilogram tool easily. The other benefit of this training is the control of the subconscious mind and ability to concentrate on the performance of what would be dangerous, stressful, exhausting tasks for a normal gymnast.
To ensure that the purity and precision of the art is maintained and protected from corruption, there are strict succession guidelines and the skill can only be handed down from one generation of a family to another, as from master to apprentice, preserving the essence of acrobatic from ancient times.