Two young women in bright blues and yellows twist around their male counterpart, contorting their bodies into impossible shapes as a woman in pink balances one handed on his head. The fabric of their costumes seems to flow around him like water as they move into the final pose of their dance, a four-person pyramid nothing short of human sculpture.
“Acrobatic Master and His Pupils” was just one of many awe inspiring acts from “Peking Dreams,” first performed by the National Circus and Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. On Saturday, Nov. 7, the University of Connecticut’s Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts revived the production, which has graced stages in over 50 countries worldwide.
The experience was nothing short of mystical, with sparkling women in pastels and bearded men with their faces painted to look like dragons displaying a level of athleticism nearly beyond belief. The mesmerizing calm of watching a troupe of acrobats spin up to eight shimmering plates while forming a human tower was punctuated by daring stunts that kept the audience on edge for minutes.
While the National Circus and Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China’s entire evening was strong, there were two clear audience favorites.
In the first act, a team of hoop diving youths stole the show, jumping up to twice their height through two sets of silver rings stacked on the stage. At times, the young men seemed almost to be swimming through the air as they dove through the deceptively simple obstacle course at every conceivable angle.
“My favorite part was when they jumped through the hoops because you shouldn’t be able to do that,” Gloria Zhu, a 1st-semester allied health major said after seeing her first show at Jorgensen.
Even the divers’ mistakes were graceful, a testament to their incredible agility and mental toughness. They didn’t always hit their mark, noted Haley Hamlin, a 9th-semester human development and family studies major, but they were back on their feet within seconds to give it another go.
“There was no padding on stage which was really cool,” Hamlin said and added that watching their performance had given her some pretty serious fitness goals for the future.
Nothing captivated the audience, however, like the“Peking Dreams” finale. Featuring a single male acrobat on a rotating balancing pole, the star of “Solo on a Pole” became the jewel of the evening as he held himself at a complete right angle nearly 10 feet in the air, navigating the narrow handholds as if he was climbing an everyday ladder.
“I was so nervous watching him,” Nick Sibley-Jett, an UConn alumnus said of this gravity defying stunt.
Pole balancing may have stolen the show, but the success of “Peking Dreams” was truly the culmination of the persistence, trust and passion of the entire National Circus and Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China. The performers, some of whom started training as early as four years old, quite literally supported each other in weaving a dream of beauty, tradition and the impossible on stage.
Kimberly Armstrong is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.