The New Shanghai Circus
nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
December 2, 2007
It's pretty impossible to see The New Shanghai Circus without feeling blown away, dazzled, and reminded of human potential.
This show, which is an acrobatic display of grace, strength, creativity, and technique, is absolutely amazing. Wearing beautiful costumes full of color, tradition, and sparkle, the 15 performers, ages 13 to 45, perform astonishing contortions and feats of balance, yet with elegance and not a touch of what might otherwise be freakishness.
This production is absolutely gorgeous and inspiring with highly creative choreography: We see a young boy go into a handstand, lifting one arm, tilting to one side, lowering his legs half way, then floating into a split, then doing a series of backflips and spinning on his head. In one beautiful number, the ladies of the company do a spinning plates dance, while wearing blue harem outfits decorated with red-tasseled aprons. Somehow they are able to keep these plates spinning even while somersaulting and doing one-armed handstands. In another scene, a dancer stands on one hand and one foot, while balancing a Chinese pagoda toy on the top of her other foot, raised high in the air. A female dancer spins a table on her feet. In the one almost hip-hop number, the dancers jump through increasingly higher hoops, performing acrobatic tricks before and after the jump. In perhaps my favorite number—though each one is so breathtaking I'd hesitate to choose—the female dancers wear white ballet outfits while they roller skate delicately between single-flower-filled vases on a table.
The acts are based on historically significant pieces dating back thousands of years ago. For example, the hoop diving scene is taken from the tradition when, during the harvest time, field workers used a tool shaped like a large tambourine to divide the grain from the leaves and stems. Workers would challenge each other to dive through these hoops, with the goal being to jump through as many as possible.
The precision and detail here are outstanding. This show had a fair amount of kids in the audience and while I would say it is certainly suitable for children, it's not specifically a kid's show at all, as there is nothing "cute" about it in any way. It's absolutely sophisticated and brilliant. I probably could gush more. Just go see it.