Leaping, flying Peking Acrobats set to enthrall Houston again

Updated: 2014-02-07 13:23

By May Zhou in Houston (China Daily USA)

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 Leaping, flying Peking Acrobats set to enthrall Houston again

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

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 importer-exporter 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.


(China Daily USA 02/07/2014 page2)