Archive for the ‘Peking Acrobats’ Category

[CANCELLED: March 27, 2020] The Peking Acrobats

indexWe didn’t have tickets for this show yet.  I’m not entirely sure we were even going to go.

We have seen many Chinese acrobatic troupes perform; however it has been six years since we last went to such a performance and we were thinking it might be fun to take the kids now that they are a little older.

There always seems to be some kind of troupe coming through New Jersey, so even if this show is not rescheduled, it seems likely we’ll be able to see some amazing acrobats in the near future.


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cirque_alfonse_timber_2[ATTENDED: March 6, 2015] Timber!

Anyone who reads this blog knows that we love our cirques.   From China, from Montreal, from wherever.  So if  you tell me that you’ve invited circus performers who are doing lumberjack skills, you know I’m there.

One thing I loved about this show was just how different it was from most of the shows we’ve seen.  Unlike the Chinese acrobats who are dainty or sleek and strong, or some of the other Montreal cirques which are polished, these acrobats, the troupe of Cirque Alfonse, were big burly bearded men in flannel shirts and long johns and a couple of women (one very strong and the other a lithe dancer). They spoke and sang only in French and created a set that was very much reminiscent of a Québécois logging camp.

timber4One of the best things about the show was the live music.  Most of the acrobats also played instruments–guitars, banjos, a saw, and various percussion.  There was something about the performers being up there that made the show more exciting–especially later in the show when the guy busted out an electric guitar which seemed to update the danger level somewhat.  I do admit that since I don’t know French at all, I have no idea what the songs (some had words) were about.

There was much humor (an outhouse as part of the set) and of course, plenty of visual humor–usually surrounding how they set up their tricks. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 9, 2014] Cirque Éloize: Cirkopolis

cirkopolosI was a little concerned that we might be circused and acrobatted out when I got us tickets for Cirque Éloize.  But I’m really glad I got them.

What I have learned about circuses, cirques, and acrobats is that there are basically a half dozen things you can do: gymnastics on ropes, gymnastics on poles, contortions, juggling, wheels and balance.  So, when you see a new act, it’s unlikely you’ll get much variation on these essential skills.  The big difference comes in presentation.  And while the Chinese Acrobats do wonderful presentation, they had nothing on Cirque Éloize for overall presentation, stage set up and storytelling.

The first thing you hear as the lights dim is loud industrial noises (the music was a little too loud, I felt, but it really showed the sense of oppression they were trying to convey).  The din grew louder and louder until the curtain rose and we saw a man sitting at a desk stamping papers rhythmically.  He finishes his work and more papers come. More and more (with simple comic touches and sound effects).  He is dressed in drab grays as is every other person, including the women–suits, raincoats, all in drab gray.  They start moving around en masse, doing some simple but interesting footwork as the music grows more tense.  Our worker drone is swept up by the conforming masses.  And then a video backdrop appears with gears and dark buildings.  It zooms in on a scene as the first act begins–one where people start climbing all over his desk and jumping off. You get a feeling of Metropolis, or Brazil or even Charlie Chaplin films–and the zooming nature really makes it feel like you are soaring along.

What amazed about this sequence initially was their dress–you’re used to seeing acrobats in sleek outfits but these folks were in suits.  And they started doing acrobatic stuff–but more of a mix of dance and acrobatics than simple feats of strength and agility.  The most impressive part was when one of them men simple grabbed another man by the hands and essentially hurled him, upright, onto his own shoulders.  There were amazing displays of this kind of strength and balance–nothing slow and subtle, just pop, there he is.  And yet all the while other people are doing things behind him which are also amazing to watch. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 28, 2014] The Peking Acrobats

peking7This was our third time seeing the Peking Acrobats.  Actually I stand corrected, last year we saw the “Golden Dragon Acrobats” who I believe are not the same as the Peking Acrobats.  Typically we see them at RVCC but this year we mixed it up and went to Princeton’s McCarter Theater instead. The location didn’t make much of a difference, although the stage may have been a little bigger.

There weren’t a ton of differences between this show and previous Chinese Acrobat shows.  But it’s always amazing to watch them.  Side note: our Cub Scout Troop went to the Big Apple Circus again this year but we opted not to go.  Clark was bummed that we weren’t going but when I said we were going to see the Peking Acrobats instead, he perked right up.  Turns out he wanted to hang out with his friends more than see the Circus.  I do enjoy the Big Apple Circus, but it seemed a lot more expensive this year (and our seats last year were really lousy anyhow).

This year’s show opened with drums, something that I had never really seen with the Acrobats. There were four women playing on large drums–they played a cool rhythm and did some interesting arms movements.  It was a good start to the show.  However, drums seems to be the theme this year and I felt like there were a few too many drumming interludes (four in total I believe).  Drums are neat, but honestly you can only listen to a drum solo for so long.

I’m quoting from my review from 2012 because it was pretty much exactly the same:

As the show opened, there were ropes hanging from the ceiling (not secured to the ground).  And then several men came out and climbed the ropes. Which would be no big deal, except that they climbed them like monkeys do–or more literally as if they were walking up the rope while holding on to the rope like a grappling hook line.  From there they proceeded to leap back and forth between the ropes.

These ropes were actually attached to the ground, I think–they seemed stiffer, which allowed for slightly different activities–it’s always fun to watch them hang upside down and somehow scoot their way yup the rope. The biggest surprise to us was that at least two of them men appeared to be no more than 10 or 11 years old.  No idea if that is true, but, wow, they looked young.  There were certainly some older acrobats too, but wow, their youth was shocking.


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[ATTENDED: March 3, 2013] Cirque Zuma Zuma

zumaCirque Zuma Zuma was the final theater show of our 2012-2013 season.  When I bought tickets for this I didn’t realize that it was designed as an all ages show (hint, shows that start at 7PM are for families, shows that start at 7:30 are for adults only).  So I felt a little bad that the kids didn’t come as there were so many kids there.  And they would have enjoyed this, although it’s probably just as well that they had a nice night with their grandma.

So Cirque Zuma Zuma is an African-based show of dance and acrobatics.  There was a large banner that said that Cirque Zuma Zuma had been on America’s Got Talent.  Now, I don’t quite understand this as the announcer of the show seemed to say that the performers were from countries in Africa.  How could they be on America’s Got Talent if they are not American?  I don’t get it.

zuma2Anyway, the show got off to a rousing start with drumming.  Lots of drumming.  There was a man with two drums (big bass drum sounding drums) and then two drummers who were playing what I thought of as an African bongo but which I believe is called a Djembe.  And, man, they pounded the hell out of these things.  It was amazing how musical three (or four) drums can sound.  They played lead drum parts while the bass drum kept a steady rhythm.  And then the dancers came out.  Two women and a man dressed in what I assume is a traditional outfit.  And they danced.  Ecstatically.  Nonstop.  For about eight minutes.  And what frenetic and crazy dances they were.  They moved with such force and power.  It was really amazing and it looked exhausting.

Then came the acrobatics.  And was surprised at just how many of the acrobatic pieces were the same as ones done by the Chinese acrobats.  It strikes me as odd that two very distinct cultures would do the same kinds of things.  Are these just standard feats that contemporary performers learn?

The first was the climbing of and doing handstands on a stack of chairs.  The big difference here was that these chairs were very large (as opposed to the many tiny ones the Chinese acrobats use).  It was still impressive, and the chairs looked quite wobbly, but it was weird to open with a show stopper from another Cirque.

Other things that they did which we had already seen were jumping through hoops, spinning hula hoops, foot juggling and hat juggling.  It was very strange to see these same things.  The big difference was the music, which was African as opposed to Asian. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 9, 2013] The Big Apple Circus

bigappC.s Cub Scout pack got tickets to the Big Apple Circus again this year and we decided to go.  Once again the Circus came right on the heels of Chinese acrobats, so I didn’t think I would be impressed, but once again, the circus did a very good job.  I’ll get my one gripe out of the way first.  Our seats were awful.  Not the circus’ fault obviously, but they claim that there are no bad seats.  And while ours weren’t bad (we were to the back right of the circus floor), all of the action is played to the front, so we missed a lot of the most dramatic poses, we missed the backdrops that they put up and clearly missed the overall feel of the show.  And given how many seats were empty in the good section, I was a little bummed.  Because the show itself was spectacular.

The signature character of grandma was gone, replaced by a funny clown couple (Acrobuffos), who did a lot of grandma’s interactions with the crowd, but as more of a jealous couple routine.  They were quite funny and I’m impressed that the woman had some kind of playballs in her pants making her rear enormous–and she was able to actually bounce on them.

I also didn’t realize when we went that there was a story/theme of the history of the circus or the history of New York, or some kind of history (Legendarium!).  Including a penny farthing bicycle!  So there were stories about circuses of old and some story about Broadway and arrowheads.  The ringmaster was decent but nothing special.  But again, you go for the acts, not the ringmaster. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 18, 2012] Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

The last time I saw Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was in the mid 70s.  My parents took me two years in a row (and I still have the program books somewhere to prove it).  I didn’t realize that the circus was still around, to be honest.  I knew about all of the other circuses, but RB&B&B (what an awkward name) seemed like maybe it just went away.  Well, that is not the case—apparently once you have kids who are old enough to enjoy it, the circus comes to your town.

Or more specifically, to Trenton.  We thought about going to the show back in March when it was in East Rutherford and Newark but that seemed too far (and pricey).  When it came to Trenton (which was actually further than we anticipated) and I could get tickets for $15/ea, that was all I needed to hear.

If anything was worth $15 it was this circus.  Indeed, the joy we got out of it was worth much more than $15.

If you’ve been following along here, you know we’ve been to a number of circus-type shows over the last few months, so we are jaded circus-goers at this point.  But this show was called Dragons, and that’s hard to pass up, especially if you have a soon to be 7-year-old boy (and you used to play D&D).  When as the show opened and several performers came out with dragons attached to the front of Segways, I knew this was going to be fun.  And that it wasn’t the circus from 1977.

And yet, it kind of was.  Because once the circus proper started, it had all of the elements of circuses of yore:  elephants, tigers, trapeze artists, springboard jumpers, hoops of fire and more.

The theatricality was quite spectacular both old school (the ringmaster and clowns) and new school (remote controlled (I guess) platforms and floating screens to project pictures).  And, yes it was all about Dragons–the ringmaster sang a long over the top song about being a dragon (I think–the sound was really quite poor).  And they explained the four qualities of being a dragon (or maybe the four qualities you needed for the dragon to come out?  That’s what seemed to happen anyhow).  Each of the four qualities (Courage, Strength, Wisdom, Heart) was represented by a color and, tenuously, by the performers in a certain section.

And I cannot keep straight who exemplified which quality so, as my memory allows, here’s what we saw. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 1, 2012] The Gizmo Guys

Our friends were going to see the Gizmo Guys, so we bought (surprisingly cheap) tickets and went to the same show as them.  I was under the impression that the Gizmo Guys were kind of science-tellers–doing “magic” with sciencey things.  Well, that was utterly wrong.

The Gizmo Guys are jugglers.  That’s it.  Well, they are comedians AND jugglers and they are very funny and very talented.    But there’s no science and, I have to say, very few gizmos.

The show opened with some jokes.  But these were jokes from the kids in the audience.  And our brave friend’s 7 year-old went on stage and told a joke! (while Clark cowered so he wouldn’t be chosen).  The joke section was cute and served as a nice warmup. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 15, 2012] The Big Apple Circus

When I was a kid, we went to the Ringling Bros. Circus a few times. (I still have the program).  I had never been to the Big Apple Circus.  When we saw that it was in Bridgewater a few years ago we went (Tabitha was a baby and fell asleep after the intermission).  The year after that, the kids both enjoyed the show.  We missed last year due to a scheduling conflict.

When we heard that this was going to be grandma’s last year of the show, we decided we had to go.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Big Apple Circus, the one constant every year is “Grandma:” an old clown lady who meanders into the ring, causes mischief and is generally very funny.  Grandma, played by Barry Lubin, is leaving the show because “Mr. Lubin will spirit Grandma away to Sweden, where he moved last January to live with his partner, Ann Hageus” (NY Times).

I assumed there would be a huge send off to Grandma, but it was a surprisingly low-key show for her.  She had some great bits and was very entertaining (as always) but there was no major farewell.  Oh well.

The big surprise for our show was that Dr Oz was the surprise host.  And he handed out really stinky paper rulers (I can’t get over how badly they smelled) so that we could all measure our waists to see if we were fat or not.  Okay, first of all most of us don’t need to measure to see if we’re fat.  Second, this is a circus–not a single foodstuff out there is good for you.  Was I really going to measure my waist while holding my kids’ cotton candy.  No, I was just going to feel like a fat schlub.  Yaay!  Fun for the whole family.

My biggest victory of the night was when Dr Oz came into the crowd and his publicist asked if I (we) wanted to meet him and I was able to curtly say “No” and watch her look of surprise.  I have better things to do than to meet a TV doctor, thank you very much.

Like watch a circus. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 24, 2012] The Peking Acrobats

Raritan Valley Community College continues to impress me with their wonderful selection of performances.  And this was another amazing one.  It had me literally slack jawed.

The Peking Acrobats (let’s start simple) are acrobats from Peking, China.

As the show opened, there were ropes hanging from the ceiling (not secured to the ground).  And then several men came out and climbed the ropes.  Which would be no big deal, except that they climbed them like monkeys do–or more literally as if they were walking up the rope while holding on to the rope like a grappling hook line.  From there they proceeded to leap back and forth between the ropes, winding themselves up and then rapidly spinning down until they almost hit the floor.  Nothing I write will convey how amazing it was to watch.

And the best part about it was that that was, when all was said and done, perhaps the least interesting part of the show. (more…)

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