The Peking Acrobats
THE PEKING ACROBATS have been the featured performers on numerous television shows and celebrity-studded TV Specials including appearances on THE WAYNE BRADY SHOW as well as NBC’s RING IN THE NEW YEAR HOLIDAY SPECIAL, NICKELODEON’S UNFABULOUS and ELLEN’S REALLY BIG SHOW, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. THE PEKING ACROBATS set the world record for the Human Chair Stack on Fox’s GUINNESS BOOK PRIMETIME where they astounded television audiences with their bravery and dexterity as they balanced six people precariously atop six chairs, 21 feet up in the air, without safety lines! THE PEKING ACROBATS are also making the Hollywood scene on the silver screen as company members were featured in director Steven Soderbergh’s hit film Ocean’s 11, playing with Hollywood’s elite such as Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney. Qin Shaobo, an alumnus of THE PEKING ACROBATS, appeared in that film’s two blockbuster sequels, Ocean’s 12, and Ocean’s 13. THE PEKING ACROBATS were also the featured performers at the star-studded Hollywood Premiere of Ocean’s 13 in June 2007.
THE PEKING ACROBATS achieved another milestone as they made their debut at the Hollywood Bowl in the Fall of 2003. They performed as part of the Hollywood Bowl’s Fireworks Season Finale, where the company blended their unique brand of acrobatics with the majestic sound of the 100-piece Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by John Mauceri. THE PEKING ACROBATS’ musicians played traditional Chinese instruments with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra as the acrobats infused Bowl audiences with their powerful maneuvers in a multi-cultural, multi-media spectacular. Between the ‘fireworks’ on stage and the ‘fireworks’ in the air, audiences experienced theatrical alchemy at its finest!
Since their Hollywood Bowl debut, THE PEKING ACROBATS have performed with some of the most prestigious Symphony Orchestras in North America today. These include the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Ravinia Festival Orchestra featuring members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. In the fall of 2008, THE PEKING ACROBATS were invited to return to the Hollywood Bowl where they performed with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra as Special Guest Artists. In May of 2011, THE PEKING ACROBATS performed in sold-out Symphony Concerts with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in Canada. These concerts marked the first time THE PEKING ACROBATS have performed with Canadian Symphony Orchestras, expanding their reach to yet another concert going audience. No doubt, these engagements will lead to many other such performances with Symphony Orchestras across North America and, in between their theatre tours, THE PEKING ACROBATS continue to bring their unique artistry to a completely new audience of theatrical patrons.
In February of 2005, THE PEKING ACROBATS premiered in Italy where they astounded Italian audiences with their incredible talents while on their five-week, twelve-city tour that took them to Milan, Pisa, Bologna, Naples, and many other fascinating and exciting cities within Italy. The performers endeared themselves to the Italian audiences where they performed stellar shows to sold-out crowds. Their opening in Milan was a spectacular media event that was covered nationally by the Italian press. All of Italy knew that THE PEKING ACROBATS had come to entertain the Italian people with their ancient artistry. In city after city, the reviews were filled with accolades attesting to their superb performances – THE PEKING ACROBATS were the toast of every city they visited!
THE PEKING ACROBATS ability to perform the astounding is rooted in centuries of Chinese history and folk art. Records of acrobatic acts can be found as early as the Ch’in Dynasty (221 B.C. – 207 B.C.). In fact, the name China is actually derived from the Ch’in Dynasty. According to Fu Qifeng, author of Chinese Acrobatics Through the Ages, acrobatics originated from the people’s daily life, drawing from their experiences in work, war, and sacrificial rites. During the Warring States Period, acrobatics became widespread. It was believed that practicing acrobatics could steal people’s will, increase their physical strength and the accuracy of their movements.
During the Han Dynasty (207 B.C. – 220 A.D.), acrobatics flourished, and this wide variety of juggling, tumbling, and magic acts came to be known as the “Hundred Entertainments.” It was at this time, according to historian Fu Qifeng, that Emperor Wu Di of the Han Dynasty presented the first grand acrobatic performance at the Imperial Court. The Emperor Wu Di invited a number of important foreign dignitaries, thus making this performance the first time in Chinese history that acrobatic art was presented for diplomatic purposes. The foreign guests were so impressed by what they saw that they agreed to enter into military and trade alliances with the Han Emperor.
Continuing the tradition of Chinese acrobatics inspiring confidence and impressing one’s guests, THE PEKING ACROBATS have also been expanding their reach in the Corporate and Special Events milieu. They have performed for such prestigious clients as Johnson & Johnson Medical in Beijing, China; the Unisys Corporation in Macau, China; the Smithsonian Institute Associates in Washington, DC; the International Monetary Convention in Beijing, China; Ferrari/Maserati in Beverly Hills, California; Lucent Technologies and Pepsi-Cola in Hawaii; at Walmart’s 2010 Shareholder’s Meeting in Fayetteville, AR.
In China today, professional acrobatic troupes have many outlets for displaying their talents. Some appear on Chinese television shows as the broadcast industry in China has expanded to include several television channels featuring diverse programming. Some travel throughout China bringing their own unique costumes, stage props, and acrobatic styles to factories, villages, army units, remote areas, and frontier outposts. Still others have formed joint ventures with Theme Parks as an economically thriving China has fostered the growth of its own family entertainment industry, where they perform seasonally as part of the theme park’s entertainment, much like here in the U.S. As time goes by, it is telling that the Chinese Acrobatic tradition just gets stronger, due to the continued innovation of the artists and the endless enthusiasm from their adoring public.
Photo Credit: Tom Meinhold, Brittany App