Leap­ing, fly­ing Pek­ing Acro­bats set to en­thrall Houston again

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By MAY ZHOU in Houston mayzhou@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Take an an­cient, charm­ing art, add an in­no­va­tive way of pre­sent­ing it to the pub­lic, and what do you get? The Pek­ing Acro­bats.

Tour­ing cities big and small across the US and Canada for 30 years, this troupe of gifted Chi­nese tum­blers, con­tor­tion­ists, jug­glers, cy­clists and gym­nasts will bring the 2,000-year-old tra­di­tion of ac­ro­bat­ics back to Houston tonight with a per­for­mance in Jones Hall. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing the group’s fly­ing leaps and twists will be live mu­si­cians play­ing tra­di­tional Chi­nese in­stru­ments.

“Each time the pro­duc­tion is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent so we have some­thing new for the au­di­ence,” troupe artis­tic di­rec­tor Ken Hai said.

Hai at­trib­uted the group’s abil­ity to sus­tain a 30-year tour to the charm of its art, and its in­no­va­tive way of pre­sent­ing it to au­di­ences each year.

“We fo­cus on the unique­ness of var­i­ous as­pects of the Chi­nese art such as the ac­ro­batic tech­niques, cus­toms and mu­sic, and we put all the artis­tic el­e­ments to­gether in a way that the pro­gram holds a uni­ver­sal ap­peal for au­di­ence across dif­fer­ent cul­tural back­grounds,” Hai said.

When the group be­gan tour­ing North Amer­ica in 1984, it col­lab­o­rated with China’s Min­istry of Cul­ture and China Per­form­ing Arts Agency. “Now we di­rectly work with the acro­bats as the gov­ern­ment is play­ing a lesser role in such af­fairs,” said Hai, who also heads Los An­ge­les-based fine-goods im­porter­ex­porter In­ter­na­tional Asia Inc.

Tonight’s show, pre­sented by the So­ci­ety for the Per­form­ing Arts, will also bring in the drum art of Taizhong Drum Troupe from Shanxi Prov­ince. The group’s re­sound­ing beats have been heard across many cities in China in the past 20 years.

Over the years, the Pek­ing Acro­bats have gained some recog­ni­tion through their per­for­mances on a num­ber of US tele­vi­sion shows. “We are not as big as Rin­gling but we are rec­og­niz­able,” Hai said.

The troupe’s TV cred­its in­clude The Wayne Brady Show, NBC’s Ring in the New Year Hol­i­day Spe­cial, Nick­elodeon’s Un­fab­u­lous and Ellen’s Re­ally Big Show. Some mem­bers ap­peared in movies such as Ocean’s 11 and Ocean’s 13.

The Pek­ing Acro­bats set the world record for the Hu­man Chair Stack on FOX’s “Guin­ness Book Prime­time” sev­eral years ago when they bal­anced six peo­ple pre­car­i­ously atop six chairs, 21 feet up in the air, with­out safety lines.

The troupe also has per­formed with sym­phony or­ches­tras in At­lanta, Chicago, San Fran­cisco and San Diego.

Karen Watassek, pub­lic re­la­tions di­rec­tor at the So­ci­ety for the Per­form­ing Arts, sad this will be the group’s fifth Houston per­for­mance since 2000. “We strive to bring in top in­ter­na­tional art and per­for­mance groups to Houston to en­rich the qual­ity of life within the com­mu­nity, and the Pek­ing Acro­bats troupe is cer­tainly among the best,” she said.

Watassek said the group is very pop­u­lar with Houston au­di­ences be­cause its show ap­peals “across all gen­er­a­tions”. The Chi­nese acro­bats also are a good fit with Houston’s di­verse pop­u­la­tion. The per­form­ing arts so­ci­ety “en­joys bring­ing pro­grams from dif­fer­ent coun­tries to touch peo­ple who are from those coun­tries and now live here,” Watassek said.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The Pek­ing Acro­bats, pop­u­lar with Houston au­di­ences, have been tour­ing the US and Canada for 30 years.

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