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Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats tumble back to the Cowichan Theatre
How do they do that?
Mysteriously strenuous physical feats of the Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats return to the Cowichan Theatre Oct. 7 with decades of polished routines during their island exclusive.
Cynthia Dike-Hughes, of California’s IAI Presentations, said the Acrobat’s two-hour show is far more than a series of stunts — it’s a wonderful tradition, and a cultural exchange.
“Our mission is to create understanding through art and the theatre. We want to be uplifting for people and bring cultures together.
“We strive to remain true to the tradition of Chinese acrobatics,” she told the News Leader Pictorial of the troupe that’s toured some 20 countries in the past 30 years.
“We try not to clutter the show with too much technology, though we have lighting and special effects — which I can’t tell you about or it would ruin the show.
“It’s a visual and aural treat, performed to traditional Chinese music.”
Roger Sparkes, a former Cowichan Theatre boss, fondly remembered bringing the Chinese Acrobats to Cowichan “more than once” — and seeing them in China in 1997.
“It was one of my favourite and most successful shows in the mid-80s,” he said, relating comedy, big-jar balancing, spinning plates, and expert balancing work in an act subsidized by the Chinese government back then.
“The audience loved that stuff, and the house was sold out when they came to town.”
The Acrobatics’ act has evolved “a great deal over the years,” she said, and is now under artistic direction of third-generation Acrobat Ken Hai.
“Mr. Hai was performing in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and now directs the show, and works with our (IAI) team,” Dike-Hughes said.
“There’s been a new show every year for the past 33 years.”
Change include many added acts, such as a lion-dance with performers in lion costumes to open the show, she said.
“There are lots of different balancing acts, a lot of various equilibrium acts, some aerial acts, and a variety of tumbling and gymnastics.
“The costumes are beautiful; almost museum pieces because they’re so lovely.”
Little wonder the Acrobats — presenting 14 on stage — love touring and continuing their 2,000 year-old traditions, she explained.
The troupe’s based in China. Performers rehearse in Beijing, then polish their show in a Los Angeles studio, Dike-Hughes explained.
“For me,” said Dike-Hughes, “the best part of our show is that there’s always a transference of joy between the artists and the audience.”
Theatre manager manager Kirsten Schrader was likewise amped about the Acrobats’ family show.
“It was an easy decision for me to make to bring it here because this area doesn’t often get to see the big, extravagant spectacle shows that tour other cities.
“The Shangri-La Acrobats are the real deal; Chinese nationals who’ve been honing their craft for generations.
“The show features Kung Fu influences, so local Kung Fu schools have been really enthusiastic. The reviews are incredible - their amazing feats, costumes and even a little Chinese humour.”
What: Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats
When: Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Cowichan Theatre
Tickets: $45, children $30, family of four $135. Call 250-748-7529