18-19 Presenter Series: New Shanghai Circus
January 31, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
The Chinese acrobatic tradition dates back to 700 B.C.; that’s over 2,000 years of tumbling, balancing and juggling. Ancient stone carvings, earthen pottery and early written work trace the ancestry of today’s spectacular acts. Relics tell the tales of famous acrobats like Confucius’ father, who is believed to have lifted a pair of 1,000-pound city gates to let an army storm through.
The art of Chinese acrobatics developed out of the Lunar New Year harvest celebrations, where the village’s peasants and craftsmen would hold a kind of Chinese Thanksgiving. Acrobats would use household tools and common items found around the farm and workshop as part of their exciting feats. Performers passed their skills down from generation to generation and great acrobatic families of China entertained everyone from city rulers to village people, performing at ceremonial carnivals and public theaters across the country.
Over the years, as China plunged into economic and social upheaval, many fine arts were lost and acrobats found themselves on the verge of extinction. Since the Revolution in 1949, the government has made great efforts to foster and develop traditional arts and culture in China, and acrobatics has enjoyed a new life.
Today only a few descendants of the old and famous acrobatics families remain. These individuals have organized China’s traditional entertainers into professional acrobatic troupes with formal academies for training young, promising entertainers and internationally renowned companies. Modern-day Chinese acrobatics reflect the industry, resourcefulness and courage of the Chinese people. At present, there are over 120 professional acrobatic troupes across China, and more than 12,000 performers.