Lions and dragons and gymnasts will storm the stage when the Peking Acrobats perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 25, in the Amphitheater as part of the Family Entertainment Series.
The Chinese troupe, now celebrating its 32nd season, is known for combining traditional music with special effects for performances filled with astounding physical maneuvers. In one of their most famous stunts, the acrobats balance atop a pagoda of chairs —all while standing on their heads.
In her review for DC Metro, Marlene Hall said that the Peking Acrobats’ 30th anniversary national tour was like “Cirque du Soleil meets the East,” and praised the performers for pushing “human capacity beyond human capacity.”
Other feats involve spinning plates, paper parasols, animal costumes and balance beams. For one stunt, over 10 acrobats squeeze together atop a single unicycle while flashing colorful fans to resemble a peacock. Chautauquans can also expect to see gymnasts jump through hoops and contortionists steady goblets in their hands and mouths as they ex their talents.
According to the Gertrude C. Ford Center of Performing Arts, the origin of Chinese acrobats dates back 4,000 years ago to the Xia Dynasty, but gained widespread popularity during the Warring States Period, which lasted from 475 to 221 B.C. During the Han Dynasty, the acrobatic acts were dubbed the “Hundred Plays,” and music was added to underscore the somersaulting, lion dance and tightwire routines.
The performance on Wednesday, July 25, will mark the Peking Acrobats’ Chautauqua debut. Other Chinese troupes that have visited the grounds include the Golden Dragon Acrobats, which have returned to Chautauqua regularly since 2006, and The Peking Circus, another troupe that performed during the 1992 season.
Vice President of Performing and Visual Arts Deborah Sunya Moore said the Peking Acrobats’ live music will offer a new component for families to enjoy.
“I’m excited about presenting the Peking Acrobats because they come with Chinese musicians and instruments,” Moore said. “This added element is exciting for Chautauqua.”