Imperial Acrobats of China by Jennifer Tarrazi-Scully

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The word acrobat conjures up images of super bendy bodies balancing on one limb or tiny people with super hero strength facilitating multiple twists and turns in the air. The definition of an acrobat according to Merriam-Webster is ”one that performs gymnastic feats requiring skillful control of the body. This is in fact, what we got on stage at the Ferst theater on Sunday.
In 1994, the Imperial Acrobats of China were formed by Yan Zhao and Guy Caron. This company is known for bringing light to the authentic culture of China and Shaolin Gung Fu. This performance, Chi of Shaolin: Tale of the Dragon, is the journey of a common thief. Hurt during his crime, he is found by a Shaolin Monk, taken to the temple and on the path to enlightenment.

Along the way we encounter Tai Chi, Qigong, Kung Fu, modern dance and contortion to name a few of the acts. Some of the best highlights involved natural elements, like the frog solo, with the performer springing high in the air and landing on his turned out knees. One of the most breathtaking moments was a single contortionist costumed as the top branches of a winter tree. She spent the whole time balancing on one appendage – if it’s her arm the rest of the body is upside down, legs in full split or wrapped around the torso in some unnatural yet graceful way.

There was sword play, the breaking of hard objects with body parts, beautiful costumes, dancing Chinese dragons and the balancing of many lit candelabras. The part that makes this more than a circus show is that there is also a decent story to tie it all together. Everything you need for Far East family fun.

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