Golden Dragon Acrobats return to Phillips Center

The Golden Dragon Acrobats will perform 16 acts representing the ancient art of Chinese acrobatics on Saturday at the Phillips Center.

Published: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 1:02 p.m.

Eastern and Western cultures will converge in a visual feast of an ancient Chinese tradition — rich with color, theatrics and music — on Saturday at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.


Golden Dragon Acrobats

What: Chinese troupe performs the ancient art of acrobatics in a two-hour performance
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 315 Hull Road
Tickets: $25-$40
Info: 392-2787 or

The Golden Dragon Acrobats will perform acts that include hoop diving, juggling and contortions when the troupe’s 26 performers take the stage at 2 p.m.

The performance of 16 acts is intended to bring families together while stirring dialogue about cultural differences and similarities, says Angela Chang, vice president and choreographer of the troupe.

The matinee will feature a blend of solo, duet and ensemble acts and an audience favorite, known simply as “Top of the Chair.” Performer Tainjung Zhang will stack up to six chairs on top of a table to more than 30 feet high and perform a routine of acrobatics, including handstands. The number of chairs varies with performances due to audience interaction.

“He’ll ask the audience do they want more chairs, and some say, ‘No! No more!’ and others say, ‘Yes! Two more!’” Chang says. The performance is a tense feat of balance and precision, and the audience reacts with screams, applause and a standing ovation every time Zhang completes the routine successfully.

“The kids keep asking their parents and grandparents, ‘How did they do that?!’” Chang says about audience reactions to the show’s acts. “It’s a really beautiful moment.”

One of China’s most popular art forms, Chinese acrobatics originated more than 2,000 years ago and became a form of entertainment for the imperial courts, Chang says. More recently, farmers began practicing the art form, which emphasizes strength, balance, dance and movement, during winter. Appreciation for the form was so great that many performers worked their farms through the harvest and toured surrounding regions as performers during the off-months.

The province of Hebei and its surrounding areas are home to the art form and the company’s performers, who range in age from 16 to 26 years old, Chang says. Most of the performers, whose average age is 18, have trained since they were about 7 years old. For these teens, acrobatic stunts are an energy outlet equivalent to our culture’s running and sports — a notion that often inspires Western teens, she says. Touring with the company also provides the natives of China an opportunity to see and experience Western culture.

Michael Blachly, director of University of Florida Performing Arts, says that the Golden Dragon Acrobats, which performed at UF in 2008, are one of the strongest ensembles of its genre. The organization has toured the world for more than 30 years, he says.

“Interestingly, it used to be more complicated to share the acrobatic tradition,” Blachly says. “These performers were once the representative missionaries who had to travel to share their ideas.

“The Eastern translation into Western terms has become easier through the Internet.”

Acrobatics have grown in popularity among American audiences since the Canadian company Cirque du Soleil came to the United States during the 1984 Olympics.

Blachly anticipates a full house for Saturday’s performance and hopes that attendees come away from the show with an appreciation for an art form that is older than the U.S. and a broader understanding of how interconnected the world has become.

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