Golden Dragon Acrobats
nytheatre.com review by Maggie Cino
November 20, 2005
Acrobatic training has been part of Chinese culture for two thousand years, and the Golden Dragon Acrobats epitomize this tradition. The show is an exploration of the physical world at every level. Not only people, but also objects are pushed to their limits: ladders, balls, cloth, hats, plates, umbrellas, fabric, and chairs are all skillfully exploited. And there is no limit to the dexterousness of every part of these acrobats' bodies. They are as deft with their feet as most jugglers are with their hands, using them to toss umbrellas, juggle balls, and balance full trays of glasses. In fact, juggling, balancing, or spinning something while doing contortion, flips, or leaps is a staple of this production.
Alternating men's and women’s routines point up the exuberant power in the men’s acts and the lithe lightness of the women. Qui Yu Chen’s shimmering contortion while balancing a tray of glasses on her foot is sheer beauty. A group of women do a full acrobatic routine while spinning plates so delicately they look like gently waving flowers. One man literally carries the show on his shoulders at he stands on a straight ladder, balancing it, while two men do a headstand routine on top of him. The boys’ hat juggling act has powerful glee, and the Greco-Roman wrestling match erotic stateliness.
Unfortunately, the show’s climax act is a little less amazing. One acrobat steadily stacks chairs one on top of the other until they almost reach the ceiling. It is daring, especially as the chairs waver, but it doesn’t match the awesomeness of the previous acts. Also, this is the only time the performer speaks to the audience, egging them on to applaud. Although this interaction is part of the act, and it is fun to support him, it is the only act that required this encouragement.
All of the performers are consummate. Present, masterful, joyous, they communicate these ancient tricks as something brand new. And the powerful music, simple themes, and explosive choreography are about something that transcends culture—absolute joy in exploring the full potential of the human body.