“Cirque du Critique”

Home Arts & Culture “Cirque du Critique”

By Mustafa Mehdi Vural

Tuan Le, 33, and his girl friend Vanessa Alvarez, 28, rushed from the subway on Sunday afternoon to Whitman Auditorium at Brooklyn College to see the show of Chinese Acrobats of Hebei.

Pole climbing is one of the main traditional acrobatic numbers in China, vivid description appeared in drawings more than 1000 years ago. Photo by Mustafa Mehdi Vural/The Brooklyn Ink

“My girlfriend loves Chinese Acrobatics,” said Vietnam-born, Germany-raised Le.

“I do little bit the same thing,” added Alvarez, smiling.

Le and Alvarez are both jugglers from Cirque du Soleil and wanted to see their competitors, Chinese Acrobats of Hebei, before they perform in late April at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan.

The acrobats of Hebei performed before an audience comprised mainly of the elderly and the very young, all of whom appeared to be quite impressed with what the acrobats could do.

“I have a 9-year-old daughter and I thought it would be interesting for her to see, to get her to expose to arts and different cultures,” said Sophia Richards, a 41-year-old administrative assistant who was content with the show while directing her fidgeting daughter, Kara, in the foyer of the theater.

The troupe of gymnasts, contortionists and jugglers aged between 19 and 25, were led by the artistic director and former Cirque du Soleil performer Hou Chunyan. The show featured the gravity-defying towering chair balance, pole climbing, hat juggling, hoop diving and rolla bolla — balancing on a rolling platform on a small stage and making it look comical.

The acrobats’ agility, precision and the rhythm of their movements made the crowd gasp and break into applause.

“We saw a similar show in China, but they are also very good,” said Elaine Moss enjoying the show with her guest, a World War II veteran, Harold Benioff, and his wife, both from Oceanside, Long Island.

Fast-paced and choreographed in a outstanding routine, hat juggling does not always come without mistakes. Photo by Mustafa Mehdi Vural/The Brooklyn Ink

But pushing the limits of the human body with fast-paced rhythm and precision on the stage before hundreds of people caused the performers to make a few mistakes on the stage. They dropped balls and hats a couple of times while juggling.

And these mistakes were not missed by their competitors sitting in the audience.

“They have to decide what they want to do, which direction, to do a modern circus or to do a traditional Chinese circus,” said Le, who is from a family of performers and has been juggling for the 25 years.

“It was not clear to me what they were doing,” added Le. “But their acrobatic ability was good.”

“It happens when you take a risk on the stage,” said Alvarez in an understanding tone.

“I would say four,” said Le, grading the acrobats’ performance out of ten.

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