National Acrobats from China to perform at Krannert

By Brittney Nadler

Juggling drums with their feet, kicking bowls while riding unicycles, diving through hoops and contorting are only a few of the acts the National Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China will be performing Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

“This group is traveling to the U.S. right now, so we’re glad to welcome them on tour,” said Bridget Lee-Calfas, advertising and publicity director for Krannert. “There is something so enchanting about circus art. It’s such an old tradition and one that we all can feel familiar with at some level.”

Columbia Artists Management Inc. is managing the troupe and has worked with the University before, Lee-Calfas said. The performances they sent here in the past were “incredibly popular,” which led Krannert to book the National Acrobats.

To become a National Acrobat, talent scouts choose young acrobats to train at the Institute for Acrobatic Schooling, Training, and Repertoire in Beijing at age six. They work six days a week and spend half of the school day training. They begin by learning how to do a handstand and then advance in areas of tumbling, flexibility and dance.

More than 50 teachers work with 500 students, and after 10 years of practice, only a select few are chosen to actually perform for the company.

“Having a company come internationally … they’re able to share not only what they do, but something about Chinese culture as well. This company is really going to blow people away with incredible acrobatics,” Lee-Calfas said.

Although the art has been around for thousands of years, the company was established in 1951 and has performed in Germany, Turkey, Taiwan, Singapore, Brazil, Mexico, Israel and Chile, among others.

Cirque Peking is a cultural event for LAS Honors students to attend for free. This is the first event of its kind that more than 50 honors students will attend, said Dr. Kirsten Bartels, director of LAS Honors.

“We really want to broaden the horizons and experience different cultures that will impact our students, and we thought this was a great idea,” Bartels said. “We decided rather than go to a traditional play like we normally go to, that we were going to try something different.”

LAS Honors has gone on trips to the Japan House for tea ceremonies and other performances at Krannert, but this event can expose students to something they have never seen before, Bartels said.

“We know how we traditionally view theater, and I like the idea of going to something that’s a little non-traditional,” she said. “(Students) have such incredible opportunities to go and experience different enrichment and cultural activities that you’ve got to try it. For ten bucks, you can go see some world class performances and productions.”

Brittney can be reached at [email protected].