Chinese acrobats meet Ringling Bros

Updated: 2014-02-24 10:45

By Amy He in New York (China Daily USA)

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Brooklyn, New York, which has a century-long circus tradition, welcomed back another showing of Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey's legendary circus performance, this time bringing the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe with them.

The circus kicked off its latest LEGENDS! show with an opening performance at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Feb 20, featuring for the first time the National Acrobatic Troupe of China from Beijing. The troupe performed four separate acts in front of an audience of 18,000.

Twenty-eight members of the National Acrobatic Troupe were part of the LEGENDS! show, many of which the troupe choreographed themselves and have performed back in China.

"The Chinese troupe is unbelievable. The things they do and their discipline and the way they perform is so inspiring to me and it was one of the best troupes I've ever worked with in the circus," said Rye Mullis, show director.

"I've been working with Ringling Bros for a while and I know they were really anxious to get some Chinese performers back over States side. They are always one of the highlights of the show and this year we were just lucky to get the best of the best with the National Acrobatic Troupe of China," he told China Daily.

The acts include a bicycle performance that has 20 of the acrobats stacked in a moving pyramid built on two bikes, as well as a colorful diabolo routine that featured the troupe members twirling and spinning diabolos - yoyos - lit with fire.

The theme of this year's show focused on the mythology of the Ringling Bros, which Mullis said was in direct contrast to the more contemporary theme of its last show, Built to Amaze.

"We discovered that Ringling Bros is like its own little coliseum of legends. We found that a lot of our circus memories came with these mythological presentations that Ringling has done in the past, so we really wanted to make the audience believe again," Mullis told China Daily.

The show was conceptualized a year ago, with the show directors wanting to juxtapose the idea of dreams and realities, presenting them side-by-side in a two-hour program.

"We wanted to show somebody like the National Acrobatic Troupe at the top of their form, and then present that alongside something as magical as a unicorn or a Pegasus," Mullis said.

The National Acrobatic Troupe collaborated frequently with the Ringling Bros. creative team during the creation of their acts, something that Mullis said was crucial to the conception of the show itself.

One of the segments, a pole act, featured six members of the troupe spinning and twirling on twin poles, joined mid-way by another circus performer, Paulo dos Santos.

"You have three different cultures come together, because you had me in the creative team who's American, you have [troupe leader Zhang Chunyu] and the troupe who's Chinese, and you have Paulo, who's Brazilian, and we came up with this really fun little act," Mullis said.

Putting the show together and producing all the show elements began early last year and wrapped at the end of the summer. After that, the performers began a six-week period of intense rehearsals in Florida, where the Ringling Bros have rehearsed for more than a century.

"We're all extremely tired and we all worked extremely hard, but it's a lot of fun," Mullis said.

Chinese acrobats meet Ringling Bros

The China National Acrobatic Troupe performing at the Ringing Bros and Barnum & Bailey show LEGENDS!, held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Amy He / China Daily

(China Daily USA 02/24/2014 page2)