Peking Acrobats® to perform athletic, entertaining feats
Don Hughes, the co-producer of Peking Acrobats® since 1973, prefers being in the audience rather than on stage when his Chinese troupe of tumblers, contortionists, jugglers, cyclists and gymnasts perform.
“I won’t dream of doing the acts; I’d break my neck,” the amiable Hughes chuckled last Thursday. “After 30 years, I still get sweaty palms watching the chair-stacking act. I’d rather be the producer.
“The Chinese, they make light of what they’re doing. They’re not biting their nails during the whole show. They make it look so easy, when it’s not,” Hughes added. “They run up the pole like monkeys – I can’t do that. They start training when they’re 6 years old. It’s rigorous.”
Hughes is also impressed that the Peking Acrobats®, which has toured throughout the United States to sold-out houses for the last 18 years, is still in high demand. (Twelve members of the Peking Acrobats® will entertain Sunday at the California WorldFest on Sunday at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.)
“In the 1980s, I said ‘how long will it last, it can’t go on forever,'” Hughes said. “Then in the ’90s, I said, ‘how long will it last’? Well, it’s now 2004 and we’re sold out through the end of April next year, with tours in the United States and Italy!”
That’s really not so surprising when Hughes begins to describe a 60-minute troupe performance: plate spinning, a member doing a one-handed horizontal handstand 26 feet above the ground on a chair supported by four champagne bottles and a table, 11 acrobats riding one bike (the bicycle pagoda) and the human pyramid.
The group’s acts change dramatically each year.
“When I look back to 1973 and then look at 2004, I can’t believe what they’ve done with some of the acts. One member would balance on her nose little shells with burning candles, then she would go on the teeterboard, balancing all this,” Hughes explained. “The next year, she’d come out on a ball on a teeterboard, spinning a hoop. The members embellish each time.”
Besides the constant embellishments, the troupe continues to set new standards for itself. Last year, the Peking Acrobats® achieved a world record for the Human Chair Stack on Fox’s “GUINNESS BOOK PRIMETIME TV” show when six members balanced on top of six chairs 21 feet up in the air without safety lines, according to Hughes. The Peking Acrobats® also achieved another milestone last year in its debut performance at the Hollywood Bowl. The 30-member troupe was accompanied by its musicians on traditional Chinese instruments along with the 100-piece Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Since then, the troupe has performed in conjunction with other orchestras, including the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra last weekend, the Buffalo N.Y. philharmonic next week and San Diego Symphony in early August.
On Sunday, troupe members will be accompanied by traditional and modern Asian music.
“It’s great for children as young as 4 to their grandparents. It’s like a variety show. You’re going to like something,” Hughes said.
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