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The hundred entertainments

Wren Wertin
Special to the Daily The Peking Acrobats have been likened to watching "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" in a live performance. They command the stage - and the air above it - at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek Sunday for two shows.
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Foot juggling, hoop diving and plate spinning are all in a day’s work for the Peking Acrobats. The troupe of gravity-defying performers take the stage – and the air above it – at the Vilar Center Sunday for two performances at 4 and 7:30 p.m.

The ensemble of acrobats are continuing a tradition that began in China more than 2,000 years ago. While the court entertainment for the emperor and his milieu was often staid and sophisticated, the common people would amuse themselves and each other by perfecting their folk arts: juggling ordinary household objects, tumbling and balancing. From the beginning, their impromptu shows mirrored the struggles and niceties of daily life.

Soon, the infectious exuberance of the peasants made its way into the Han palace as “The Hundred Entertainments.” It’s been a revered and honorable pursuit ever since.

The performance is 90 minutes of varied arts, including nods to Buddhist ceremonies and pure exhibitionist feats. The golden, shaggy lion (a symbol for the spirit of renewal and good luck) dances with exaggerated flair; the nimble gymnasts leap over and around each other, building pyramids on bicycles, chairs, and even a person’s chin; more-than-limber contortionists produce squirming in the audience as they twist their bodies around. It’s a quick-moving show with a dose of comedy thrown in for good measure. Watching a performance was likened to watching “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” live by Dance Insider.

The 18-member ensemble performs to live music provided by a Chinese orchestra. It sounds exotic, with moments of building tension and quick release. Since 1952, the troupe has been under the direction of the Hai family, primarily acrobat Ken Hai.

Often, performing with an acrobatic troupe is a family tradition that dates back several generations. Children begin their training at age five, learning the art of balance and strength. Well before they make it to double digits, the children are well equipped to ignore the vagaries of gravity that seem to plague other folks. They float, they fly.

On the wing

Peking Acrobats

Sunday, 4 and 7:30 p.m.

Vilar Center, Beaver Creek


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