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December 24, 2012
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Astounding acrobatics in Beaver Creek

Whatever you see the Golden Dragon Acrobats doing, do not try at home. OK, you can try it, just don't act surprised when you can't do it.

They'll build a contortionist cathedral that keeps getting taller, or human obstacles that get wider. The key to entertainment is escalation, and they keep topping themselves.

They're in Beaver Creek for two Christmas Day performances. Most of the performers started in May, so even they haven't seen some of this stuff before.

"There are lots of new things not seen in previous troupes," said Jessica Chang.

Jessica is Danny and Angela Chang's youngest daughter and has been with the family business 10 years.

Danny's father started the Golden Dragon Acrobats. Danny was only 8 years old when he began his training with his family's acrobatic school in Taipei. He began performing with its touring wing, the Golden Dragon Acrobats, at 10 years old.

It was a family business and passed down to him.

When we called, we were lucky enough for Jessica to pick up the phone.

"How on God's green earth do you find people who can do this stuff?" we asked.

"I'm glad you asked," she said, or words to that effect.

Scouting for skill

In China they have schools specifically for acrobatic performers. Parents send their children to these schools when they're 6 to 8 years old - the kids, not the parents.

After years of practice the best will be chosen for one of China's acrobatic teams. It's a tough climb, but not insurmountable.

China has between dozens and hundreds of acrobatic teams in each province.

Danny travels to China regularly to scout for new talent, not unlike someone scouting a baseball prospect. He watches them over and over, getting a feel for how they perform and how they might fit with his program.

He's looking for grace and skill, flexibility and stage presence. They can handle all the different environments they'll perform in.

Take the chair stacking handstand, for example. It's not for everyone.

It involves two to seven acrobats and as many or more chairs. While on a pagoda or ladder of chairs, the performers do handstands and other stunts.

"They need to be calm. The performer needs to have the ability to focus while on stage and with everything that's happening around them," Jessica said.

China's most popular art form

A Golden Dragon Acrobat performance features astounding acrobatics with theatrics and Chinese traditional dance. You'll see contortionists, tumblers and jugglers in acts such as plate-spinning, bicycle pagoda and juggling everything from balls to umbrellas with both hands and feet.

The Golden Dragon Acrobats hail from Cangzhou, Hebei province, in the People's Republic of China and have toured the United States continuously since 1978. The group has performed in all 50 states and more than 65 countries across the world.


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The VailDaily Updated Dec 24, 2012 10:24PM Published Dec 24, 2012 10:20PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.