Campus Life

Circus Shows Unique Aerial, Acrobatic Skills

The National Circus and Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China performed Oct. 8 to a sold-out crowd in Reynolds Performance Hall.
During the performance, a large cast of acrobats and performers exhibited various feats of skill. Some of these were similar to what one might see at an American traveling circus, such as the suspended hoops and aerial acrobatic performances.
Aerial acrobatics, or aerials, consist of an acrobat twisting and contorting while suspending himself from an aerial silk.
UCA senior Stephanie Hill attended the performance. She has some experience with the type of tricks performed during the show.
“I dabble in acro yoga and aerials, and I was hoping to see some of that from the professionals,” she said.
Even though some acts were similar to a traditional circus, there were no animals or clowns in this circus, only feats of human skill.
One of the more impressive acts was at the end of the performance. A male performer stacked chairs upon chairs upon chairs: He stacked so many chairs that they almost reached the ceiling over the stage. Then, he climbed to the top of the chairs. When he reached the top, he stacked some boxes on top of the tower of chairs. Then, he climbed atop the stack of boxes and began to do a handstand. Finally, he lifted one hand. He held his one-handed handstand on top of the boxes that were on top of the chairs, while the crowd clapped in appreciation.
Even though the performers were professionals, their death-defying stunts prompted some audience members to watch with bated breath during the most dangerous parts of the performance.
Hill wasn’t worried about the performers’ safety, but she was impressed by their skill.
“Some of those acts were unbelievably hard,” she said. “They make it look so easy that sometimes it’s hard to remember how much practice goes into performing things like that.”
Honors College professor Donna Bowman also attended the circus performance. Bowman said she had some initial worries about going to the show.
“I was anxious at the start of the performance that I would be so worried about the acrobats falling or getting hurt that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it,” she said. “But very quickly that anxiety went away because the stunts were part of an overall artistry, not presented as something dangerous.”
Throughout the show, the performers utilized everyday items such as chairs, hats, bowls and bicycles in unusual ways. In one skit, many men juggled hats. In another, women rode bicycles around the stage in choreographed circles. The women jumped on and off the bicycles, so sometimes a single bicycle would hold the weight of 10 or 20 people.
There was no speaking during the performance, but the acts, dances and music that accompanied them were integrated in a way that made speech unnecessary.
In the hat juggling and some other acts, humor was used, as the performers used facial expression and body language to communicate with the audience.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 14, 2015 print edition of The Echo. 

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