Tao on a Tightwire | Visual Art | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
Pin It
Favorite

Tao on a Tightwire 

shangri-la_07.gif


Sublimity is rare on YouTube, but try the Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats. In the “Bowl Balance,” a man dressed in white lifts up a girl, also in white. He holds only her hands; she’s bent into a C shape. Gradually, you’ll notice a soup bowl balanced on her head. Her lips are pursed like a serene princess.

The Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats will appear at the Ulster Performing Arts Center on November 1. This is their 29th North American tour, but each year’s show is different, in case you’ve seen this troupe previously. But not everything changes. “There are certain acts we have to bring, no matter what,” observes tour producer Don Hughes. “The public expects to see them. One is what we call ‘The Tower of Chairs,’ where the performer goes up 26 feet in the air and does a one-handed horizontal handstand at the top. Everyone is just holding their breath—I’ll have to tell you—including me! I’ve seen it for the majority of my life, but my palms still sweat when I see that act.”

The Shangri-La acrobats work without a tightwire or nets. “It makes it more exciting, watching them,” says Hughes. “You know, when they’ve got a wire on, people are inclined to believe that the wire’s holding them up.” “The Pagoda of Chairs,” which is all women, standing sideways, is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most chairs with no tightwire.

Not all the acts are nail-biters, however. Performers dressed as two shaggy Chinese lions balance on a large red ball, on a seesaw. A contortionist performs; there’s scarf-dancing, juggling, and kung fu.

Acrobatics is a central part of Chinese culture. Every major city has an acrobat troupe, the way American cities have baseball teams. Children begin training at the age of five or six and practice six days a week. Ken Hai, a fourth-generation Chinese acrobat, is artistic director of Shangri-La. At a studio in Beijing, he auditions performers. The current troupe includes 13 acrobats.

Am I imagining an influence of Taoism? Lao Tzu wrote:

Alive, a man is supple, soft;
In death, unbending, rigorous.
All creatures, grass and trees, alive
Are pliant; dead, are brittle and dry.

Hughes has been organizing tours for Chinese acrobats since 1973. In that time, audiences have become more familiar with this art form. “Originally, when we first came, people wanted to see Chinese culture,” Hughes remembers. “Now they go to see it because they know it’s good!” This year the Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats played seven months at Opryland, in Nashville, Tennessee. They’ve also performed on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in Las Vegas.

Acrobats are more inspiring than most sermons. The performers escape death every day by pulling together, literally. They fall, and bounce back up. These are lessons we all need to learn, and relearn—especially while watching spinning plates.

“There’s no age limit on it, and no language barrier!” vows Hughes.
The Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats will appear at the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in Kingston at 2 pm and 7pm on November 1. (845) 339-6088; www.upac.org.

Speaking of...

Pin It
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • On The Cover: Kingsley Parker

    Parker's Oceans Apart, is a multimedia installation currently taking over the Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham that explores of the current state of our oceans.
    • Mar 1, 2016
  • Parting Shot: Lisa Durfee

    Lisa Durfee’s documentation of unnoticed parts of shabby chic Hudson currently being shown at the Hudson Opera House.
    • Feb 1, 2017

Hudson Valley Events

submit event

Common Ground

Oct. 6-Nov. 13 — A photography exhibition by Ellen Lynch. The exhibit pairs separate photographs of...

View all of today's events

Latest in Visual Art

  • The Photography of Fred Cray
  • The Photography of Fred Cray

    • Oct 1, 2017
  • An Exhibit of Helen Frankenthaler's Prints
  • An Exhibit of Helen Frankenthaler's Prints

    Over 25 prints by the pioneering abstract artist Helen Frankenthaler are on display at Vassar College’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center.
    • Oct 1, 2017
  • Olana, with The Ancram Opera House, presents an original play in landscape
  • Olana, with The Ancram Opera House, presents an original play in landscape

    Performing Olana: Frederic Church living his art Olana and Ancram Opera House collaborate to produce a theater performance specifically created to take place in the landscape of the historic site. The dramatic work draws inspiration from Frederic Church’s paintings, letters, family life and the celebrated landscape and is presented as an immersive theater experience in which performer and audience journey together into Church's art. FRI 6PM | SAT 2PM, 4PM, 6PM | SUN 2PM, 4PM, 6PM Member: $10, Non-Member: $15, Family (up to 5): $40
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • More »

Related to Visual Art

More by Sparrow

Hudson Valley Tweets