The ancient ‘Show of a Hundred Tricks’
The National Circus of The People’s Republic of China to perform at Three Stages
FOLSOM — The incredible things the human body can do!
Direct from Beijing, the National Circus of the People’s Republic of China — one of the longest running and most distinguished circus troupes in China — brings its exquisite cast of acrobats, contortionists and dancers to Stage One for three magical performances of Cirque Chinois, featuring many one-of-a-kind acts, such as Great Teeterboard, Grand Flying Trapeze and more.
“A performance like Cirque Chinois can dazzle young and old alike, time and time again,” Three Stages Exectutive Director David Pier said. “It is timeless art, and a real testimony to what a circus can be.”
Direct from China, the National Circus of the People’s Republic of China, performing Cirque Chinois, was founded in 1953. It has won more than 20 gold and silver medals and various other awards at international circus festivals including the Monte Carlo International Circus Festival, Cirque de Demain, Wuqiao International Circus Festival, Wuhan International Circus Festival and China National Acrobatic Competition.
During the 1980s the company started to change the concept of the “animal circus” to a new style of “non-animal circus” which influenced the then pioneers of “Cirque du Soleil,” who invited many coaches from the company to teach them the acts such as Balancing Chairs, Bicycle and Chinese Poles, which culminated in the revolutionary program “Circus Reinvented!”. The company has toured to 80 countries around the world.
While the origin of the Chinese circus is something of a debate, it is clearly an ancient art. First records date back more than 2,000 years to the Qin Dynasty (225-207 BC) when China was unified by the First Emperor Qi Shi Huang. It is believed that the art actually started about 3,000 years ago.
Some believe that the circus evolved out of the Imperial court performers, something similar to court jesters in Medieval Europe. These performances, however, tended to be quite formal and staid, and it is believed that the adaptation of some of these acts into popular performances for the people in turn became popular with the ruling classes. Given the age of the art, it is likely that the circus was in fact a folk art which was later adopted by the imperial houses.
The ancient Chinese came to call the circus “the show of a hundred tricks.”
Rather like in Europe, families became involved in the circus, and a family tradition developed with skills being passed from generation to generation. The most famous circus families were well known. In 1949, following many years of decline because of war, the art received a boost from the government of the People’s Republic of China as an art form to be preserved.
Within China acrobats in the circus troupes are regarded with respect and admiration. Training begins as early as 4 years old. Specific acts’ training with the troupe may begin by the age of 8. Basic training — balancing, tumbling, dancing, flexibility and strength — is given in the first early years. Although some children can perform at early ages, normally performers start their career in their mid-teens.