The Chinese Imperial Circus


Dave L, Dr Bob, Tasj & I all went to watch the Chinese Imperial Circus at the Assembly Halls Theatre. After getting over the initial troubles of losing Bob we sat down for the show.

The show opened with the Traditional Chinese lions who played briefly with a ball while their handler somersaulted over their backs. Slick.

I was very impressed by the guy who performed some extremely well controlled acrobalance moves all on top of at first one chair standing on four glass bottles standing on top of a table. The guy moved effortlessly from handstands to Tiger balances & back again, totally masking the amount of upper body strength required. More & more chairs were added, then a stool with a rotating block on which he performed a one armed balance all the while slowly spinning around in a circle. He performed his finale right up with the stagelights with a one armed balance on top of a stack of blocks which he knocked away & finished in a balance on the bottom block & as Bob pointed out he managed to do it without piercing his ear with his shoulder.

A trio of ultimate wheelers did some neat tricks such as jump mounting a rolling wheel, both from the ground & another ultimate wheel & a jump mount onto a wheel spinning horizontally.

The main juggler of the troupe performed with badminton rackets (the Chinese have to work with everyday things rather than specialised juggling props apparently) all to the rather bizarre sound of Chinese Reggae. He performed some chops & behind the back throws with three, then synchronous doubles & triples with four with half & full pirouettes. All to a backdrop of girls in swimsuits twirling hulahoops(?). He then did a very solid run of five & managed a five backcross finish on the second attempt. He then performed a more than qualifying run of six & managed a clean flash of seven on the third attempt. The same guy also did some five ring cascade stealing & what we think was a 17 ring passing pattern with two partners.

I wasn't too sure about the two clowns. They were very good at what they did, I liked the bit with the brolly & bottle of water & spinning the line of plates upside down was excellent. But the Western style didn't fit too well in an Eastern show.

The first main aerial act had two performers on one rope moving between various one armed positions while swinging in circles around the stage & finished off with the girl suspended from a mouthpiece & spinning wildly.

Probably the most bizarre but also one of the best acts was the sound effects guy who performed lots of bird noises, a helicopter, a car, a train, a crying baby amongst others. Bob & I thought it was hilarious & it went down a storm. It was a real refreshing change to see that sort of out of the ordinary act performed in a circus. Nice suit too.

The traditional Chinese hoop diving act was given a superbly camp nautical twist as the acrobats dressed as sailors performed lots of backflips & handstands in between energetic leaps through the small life ring style hoops. The finale to this act was a two flip tumble to a leap through a hoop seven feet high off the ground which took a few attempts but the guy nailed it to a well earned cheer. Very nice.

A troupe of diaboloists performed the strongest act of the show by far in my opinion. Eight young girls danced while performing synchronised routines of around the worlds, throws & pirouettes all in between various set pieces. Such as passing one diabolo with fast horizontal throws in between snappy sequences of behind the back & more pirouette tricks. Another set piece was a procession of diaboloists spinning across the stage performing twirls under very low throws, first only doing one spin per throw before finishing with up to five (I think) spins underneath a throw going only two or so feet above head height. By far the best bit though was when one performer juggled three on one string then threw all three up high & did three skips underneath, as the first diabolo was caught her mate threw in another one & the girl in the centre ran four diabolos for a bit. I was well impressed to say the least.

I really enjoyed the show, it included all the traditional acts present in every Chinese Circus but it had many new pieces that made it fresh, although occasionally it did lose some of the personality of the Chinese culture. The level of technical skill was superb (I still can't get over the diabolos!) & all performed with such grace & control. Why don't we get many Chinese acts in at BJCs? I'll have to mention that to Katrina.