Arts and Entertainment

Age-old traditions continue to delight | Kitsap Week

Contortionists with the Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats bend their bodies in ways that seem humanly impossible.  - Brittany App
Contortionists with the Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats bend their bodies in ways that seem humanly impossible.
— image credit: Brittany App

The Chinese acrobatic traditions that have been around for more than 2,000 years will take to the stage in Bremerton on Sunday.

“The Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats will perform death-defying and gravity-defying acts,” said Cynthia Dike-Hughes, spokesperson for the troupe.

The troupe consists of 13 young people, all from China and all professional acrobats.

Chinese students graduate from high school at the age of 16 and then either go on to college or begin a career.

For aspiring acrobats, they begin training at the age of 6 or 7 and attend specialty schools. In the morning they are taught the three R's and in the afternoon, they perfect their acrobatic craft. By the age of 16, they are considered professionals and begin their careers.

“It's quite prestigious to be an acrobat in China,” Dikes-Hughes said. “Many acrobatic families pass down the tradition.”

Unlike modern jugglers who may use bowling balls and glow sticks in their acts, the acrobatic tradition is all about utilizing what people have on hand. Jugglers perform with pots, vases, tables and chairs.

And while Dike-Hughes will not give away all the surprises in the show, she did point out some highlights: such as the two strong men who balance off each other and contortionists who bend their bodies in ways you didn't know were possible. And then there is the bicycle pagoda. Unlike a typical Schwinn, this bicycle holds not one rider, but 13.

The Shangri-La Acrobats have performed for 32 years across the country. Dike-Hughes said it's a very family-friendly show and entertains all ages from young children up to grandparents. From acts using diabolos (a type of Chinese yo-yo) to spinning plates to flipping through hoops, there is something to keep everyone entertained.

“Not only is it a chance to have fun with your family, but it's also a slice of Chinese culture,” Dike-Hughes said. “It's something different. It's not just another movie or video game, but it's something special.”


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