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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Practice is key to circus performance
New Shanghai Circus comes to the Paramount Theater in Aurora Feb. 13. Courtesy of Paramount Theater
By Randall G. Mielke By Sun-Times Media
Feb 2, 2011
It has been said that “practice makes perfect.” For the 22 performers who make up the New Shanghai Circus, practice is essential in creating an amazing show and in keeping themselves from getting injured.
“Practice is the most important thing,” said Kate Kong, production manager for the New Shanghai Circus. “Our acts look easy, but they are actually very difficult. Our performers need training to perform the acts that they do and they need to practice every day. And it is important to keep the flexibility of the body.”
The New Shanghai Circus will perform on Feb. 13, at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora.
In the show, astounding contortionists and masterful acrobats defy gravity and execute breathtaking feats as they stretch the limits of human ability.
It was during the Han Dynasty, more than 2,000 years ago, that the Chinese saw the first acrobats, magicians and jugglers. Various demonstrations of acrobatics, with amazing skill of strength and balance, developed out of the annual village harvest celebrations. Chinese farmers and village craftsmen, with little to do over the long winter, decided to spend their time improving their societal positions by becoming acrobats. They practiced the art form with anything they could find around the house and farm: cups, saucers, tables, chairs and plates. With their own bodies they formed human walls and pyramids. Building on these traditional performances, today’s artists have added new techniques and spectacular stunts.
“The show takes this traditional art and adds modern lighting, modern choreography and modern music,” said Kong in a 2009 interview. “It is all done to make it more entertaining.”
The New Shanghai Circus, with performers ranging in age from 13 to 45, boasts such unusual acts as Rolling Cups in which a performer creates various sculpture-like poses while balancing 108 separate pieces of glassware on various parts of the body. After many contortions, the performer ends on her stomach with the glass sculptures sprouting from her forehead, her mouth, her arms and her feet. The demanding act requires a performer with the phenomenal flexibility combined with a superb sense of balance.
Another act is Hoop Diving: performers take high risks attempting to outdo each other by seeing who can go through the highest hoop or the most hoops. Their success depends on highly-disciplined practice and complete focus on the task.
And, according to Hong, audience members will be completely focused on the New Shanghai Circus show.
“Our show is family-friendly,” she said. “A two-year-old could sit on a parent’s lap and enjoy the show. The show provides colorful costumes and a lot of movement. No one is bored watching our show.”

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