The Martial Artists and Acrobats of Tianjin

By Patrick Diaz

People young and old came to witness the spectacle of the Martial Artists and Acrobats of Tianjin at the Lehman Performing Arts Center. The troupe of Chinese performers dazzled the crowd with amazing feats of choreographed athleticism, strength, dance, and stunts.

Set to traditional Chinese music, each performance was more incredible than the next. The show began with serene harmonic melody, as eight performers manipulated light orbs on strings, sort of like oversized yo-yos. Next came two more performers that began to twist and contort their bodies in seeming impossible ways. The crowd began to ooh and ah as their bodies began bent in ways that bodies normally don’t. They amount of stamina and strength they displayed while balancing on each other was incredible.

The stage lights dimmed and the sounds of a harrowing wind emerged. As the lights came on, a young person dressed in animals furs and skins woke up under a tree. Out from stage right, a mystical creature comes out, a female centaur. She throws a white ball at him, then two more, and then three more after that, which he catches and begins to juggle faster and faster until his hands are moving like lighting. He catches them all in one swoop and throws them in the air on his knees.

After a short intermission a dance duo performs. The male dancer lifted his partner over his head like she’s weightless. For their final act, she climbed on the top of his head, standing on one leg. He began to spin slowly and she looked like toy ballerina in a musical wind up box. She fell and he gracefully caught her to end it.

In the next act, five warrior monks stood in martial arts poses. The youngest began flipping and kicking around all fours like a monkey. The four other monks joined in and began to perform a highly choreographed fight scene like a Ku-Fung movie. They began to introduce martial arts weapons and other props. After the heart-pumping fight sequence, things got a little softer, a little more comical, when a band of frogs came out. They were in a pond, their home, happily hopping around and playing with each other. They do a bevy of tricks and juggling acts with their straw hats.

The frogs are followed by an act where the performers balanced and spun what looked to be ceramic plates on sticks and then juggled slivers balls with their feet.

The final act took place in what seemed to be a lair. The music was much darker and more sinister than the other acts. The lighting on the stage turned bright red and it looked to be a king or general preparing his troops for battle, with one man standing atop a platform looking down to others. As the King and later his queen looked on, their soldiers proved to them that were ready by performing stunts of diving and flipping throws wide rings like hula hoops. After a dance routine the soldiers got on their hands and knees and lifted the royal couple on their backs for one last one pose.

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