The New Shanghai Circus, a touring Chinese troupe, showcased traditional Chinese dance and performance art at Colden Auditorium on March 20.
Ninell Silberberg, associate director of Marketing and Communications at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts, said it was the New Shanghai Circus’ first time performing in Queens.
Founded in 1991, the New Shanghai Circus tours around the United States, committed to bringing dynamic Chinese acrobatics culture to an international audience.
As the circus made its debut, the audience screamed with excitement and applauded with amazement for the Chinese acrobats’ feats of strength and balance.
The first performance lit up the stage. Young female acrobats wearing clothes and head accessories from traditional Chinese opera made a human pyramid, in which one acrobat performed a handstand on a base formed by two other acrobats holding their hands up as a support.
The audience was also amazed by the acrobats’ hula hooping skills. A female acrobat twirled multiple circular plastic hoops around her hands, waist and feet at the same time. In the next minute, she twirled over 30 hoops at once at high speed. There were so many hula hoops that they blocked the acrobat’s face from the audience.
After many exciting performances with fast-paced music and moves, the circus switched to a different tempo with a jaw-dropping body contortion show. A female acrobat, dressed in a unitard, bent her body into various positions that highlighted her hyper-flexibility.
The audience members openly marveled at her skill, exclaiming with wonder. Other acrobats joined her, flexing their bodies and balancing themselves on different parts of the other acrobats’ bodies.
The New Shanghai Circus incorporated drums into one of their performances. Dressed in bright red, the acrobats laid on drums and spun smaller drums with both legs up in the air.
However, drums were not the only items they juggled with—they also raised other acrobats with their feet. The circus members passed their fellow performers to other acrobats lying beside them while those being passed continued to spin drums.
The biggest round of applause burst out from the audience when the acrobats formed a three-person high human pyramid while spinning drums and handkerchiefs with their hands and feet.
Sharon Skinner, a retired New York City Metro operator, said her favorite part was when the acrobats juggled with their feet and expressed her willingness to see more Chinese acrobatics performances after the show.
“These girls are so talented and adorable,” Skinner said. “It feels like Christmas.”
After hat juggling, which featured seven male acrobats continuously throwing and catching their hats precisely, and tube climbing, in which two female acrobats squeezed themselves into a narrow tube and nimbly climbed out, came the last, breathtaking performance: hoop diving.
Male acrobats dressed in traditional Chinese martial art costumes dived and somersaulted precisely and swiftly through hoops stacked vertically on a platform. They then added more hoops to the stack. Finally, the last acrobat skillfully dived through the highest hoop, which stood on top of three other hoops at more than twice the height of the performers. The audience cheered, many exclaiming “Oh my god!” as they applauded.
Melody Zelin, a retired teacher and alum of Queens College, said the skill that these performers were able to demonstrate was thanks to years of practice.
“The girls are very impressive,” Zelin said. “They must be very hard working.”