Fasten your seat belts. The Acrobats of China, featuring the New Shanghai Circus, will take you on a thrilling adventure into their fast-paced, electrifying world at the Ridgefield Playhouse late Sunday afternoon, March 18.
“What they do is just visually and physically amazing,” said Allison Stockel, the Playhouse’s executive director. “They will be doing maneuvers on top of a precarious pagoda of chairs, trick-cycling, precision tumbling, somersaulting, juggling, and gymnastics. They really defy gravity with amazing displays of contortion, flexibility, and control and push the envelope of human physicality with their tremendous skill and ability, not to mention dexterity and incredible balancing feats. It’s amazing. “It’s mesmerizing to see them perform, and I think that appeals to all ages — men, women, boys, girls — no matter who you are. This is our fourth year that they’ve performed here. It’s a show that is culturally rich as much as it is entertaining. The colors, costumes and music are all so beautiful,” said Stockel.
For two hours, the troupe of 21 masterful acrobats will showcase their skillful artistry with a myriad of unbelievable, mind-boggling physical feats and electrifying stunts, renditions of traditional and classic Chinese dance, and more. “You will see everything from contortionists, hat jugglers, and aerialists to wire walkers and hoop divers! Our show is a thrill-a-minute spectacle with some of the world’s greatest athletes and acrobats from the Anhui Province of China,” said Lucas Case, show manager. Some of the award-winning favorites you’ll see at the show include spinning plates — balancing plates on the end of a long bamboo stick; juggling; pole climbing on tall poles or long leather straps. “Slackwire walking requires incredible strength and skill balancing on thin wire. It is truly breathtaking, and everything our performers do defies all laws of physics,” said Case.
Jodi Simon Stewart of Ridgefield first saw the show a few years ago. “I have seen them every year since and look forward to their coming all year long. I thought it was so cool that I did not have to travel to New York City to see a show of this caliber. I also thought it was very special to see it in our intimate space,” said Stewart, who is the arts in education coordinator for the Playhouse. “One of the things that is so special about this show is that it is wonderful for any age. I have seen very young and very old audience members sitting side by side and each in awe of the performance. These artists are passionate about sharing their heritage and cultural traditions with a new audience and have dedicated their lives to their craft. It is an honor to see them perform and to get a true taste of their country’s artistic history.”
The internationally award-winning acrobats, under the direction of Zhao Lizhi, are known for their unwavering commitment and determination to their craft. “Most of the members of this troupe have been performing together for more than 10 to 20 years. The age range of the actors is 15 to 30 years old. One of our featured performers has been in the troupe since she was 7 years old and she is now 27!” said Case. Having a 2,500-year-old history, this unique Chinese acrobatic tradition has been passed down from generation to generation. Centuries ago, the great acrobatic families of China entertained city rulers and townspeople with their talent. Today, they continue to add new techniques, comedy, a little magic, and breathtaking stunts to keep their performances fresh and exciting. “It takes many years to master these acts, and our performers rehearse daily to improve their skills and routines. Our audience in Connecticut will see this work come to life firsthand,” said Case.
In conjunction with the mind-blowing performances, the show is a visually magnificent. “We have some of the most vibrant and colorful costumes in the industry! Makeup is part of the overall production; however, we do not have anything outrageous that takes away from the human performance art and their skills onstage. It is a perfect combination,” explained Case, adding that it’s also a cultural experience. “You will find that our music, featured from the Chinese opera as well as traditional Chinese folk music, is very traditional with a modern spin.”
Audience members of all ages will enjoy the Acrobats of China. The acrobats will be performing some acts specifically for children, including one act called Musical Chairs. “It’s a comedic skit between two of our acrobats ‘fighting’ over one chair. It has a great message at the end, and I believe children and adults will find it to be very entertaining and fun! Everyone from 3 years old to 103 years old will find our show to be thrilling and amazing,” he said.
According to Case, the Acrobats of China are looking forward to their upcoming show. “We are on a 70-city tour in a three-month span and our only show in Connecticut is at the Ridgefield Playhouse,” he said. “Most of our troupe has never been to the state of Connecticut, so we are excited to be part of the lineup at the Playhouse.” The acrobats strive to present an innovative and amusing show for the audience. “We want them to walk away and be amazed, feeling inspired by our performers. Our acrobats work extremely hard, and I want the people of Connecticut to embrace them like our troupe has embraced America on this tour. Our goal is to bring authentic Chinese entertainment to North America on this tour, and we look forward to entertaining you, Connecticut!”
The Acrobats of China will appear March 18 at 4 p.m. at the Ridgefield Playhouse, 80 East Ridge Road, Ridgefield. For tickets, call 203-438-5795 or go to ridgefieldplayhouse.org.