Cirque Ziva Chinese Acrobats Review

The Golden Dragon Acrobats from Cangzhou, China, present Cirque Ziva. New Victory Theater, Times Square, New York. Til January 4th (many sold out shows, new shows may be added).

I’ve seen many troops of Chinese Acrobats over the years in New York, Jerusalem, Orlando, etc. They never cease to astound me and this troop is no different. And there is lots of juggling!

The show starts off with a Cyr wheel act. A team of eight men and women do all kinds of tricks on a variety of Cyr wheels including a guy on a tiny wheel the size of a child’s hula hoop, and a giant Cyr wheel with six men spinning in it at once.

Next came a team of four women contortionists, bending over backwards and doing handstands and human pyramids on each other.

Next Ping Gao does a celebrated traditional act called, ‘Rolling With Bowls of Water’ which I haven’t seen in a very long time. She grasps a stack of cups with her foot and, while on her back, contorts and spins. Another and another stack is added until she is contorting with four stacks, one on each hand and foot. A beautiful sight.

Next a group of women, each with a mouth-stick and a sword balanced on the end doing a number of stunts including the base-woman supporting three other women on her shoulders.

Then the men set up a hoop and run and jump through it forwards, backwards, feet first, head first, over 3, 4, then 5 other guys and perfectly through the hoop.

Most of the acts are done in traditional Chinese Costume, jazzed up a bit with sparkles and glitter. The music is actually less traditional Chinese than has been performed by troops in the past. Not an improvement in my opinion, but not too distracting from the action.

The Chinese almost always include one or two Western style acts. This is done for variety, and to prove that anything you can do I can do better. For this show, the Western Style acts were the opening Russian Cyr wheel and a Mexican-style hat juggler. He tosses the hats around the stage like Frisbees, and catches and throws them, five at a time. Then tosses and catches them on his head in various patterns. Flawless.

Next, another juggling act, this time a team of three mind-boggling female antipodists. They stack up vertically and toss up to eight volley balls at each other and get them going in a variety of patterns. The lead girl, Ya Ru Wang, then does her solo routine, juggling a giant porcelain vase (could have been made of porcelain or painted wood or plastic), parasol foot juggling in all directions, table spinning in three directions, and finally table spinning on one foot while rug spinning on the other foot and one rug on each hand. Amazing

Next up, it’s the boys’ turn and it’s unicycle time. 7 guys at once doing ultimate wheel (just a wheel with pedals, but no seat) around each other, jumping off and running and jumping on the still rolling wheel of the partner, then jumping rope on the wheel, then finally jumping three ropes of increasing length at once, held by six girls.

Intermission and a girl act with cowboy lassos. Next, a girl doing an aerial act with European style tissues hung from the ceiling while two men do acrobalance on stage, including one arm hand stands on the base man’s head and the base man using one arm to hold the top man by the head.

Next up, the famous diabolo girls! With a traditional diabolo, they arrange a single string all the way across the stage and two girls toss the wooden diabolos on the string at either end. The two are on a collision course, but as they reach the middle, the girl holding the end of the string gives it a subtle little tug, and the one diabolo jumps over the other at the last second. Incredible. Aside from a single trick with traditional wooden whistling diabolo, the act used plastic European diabolos with an axle. The girls do the most phenomenal stunts and team patterns including the soloist doing a two high shower, flash, skipping the rope three times, and straight back into the shower.

There was a tower of chairs featuring Hui Yuan Zhu, doing a seven high stack with a hand-stand on top.

Next is the Lion Dance with traditional two-man lion costume with working mouth and blinking eyes. The ‘Lion’ walks on two rolling globes and negotiates his way across the see-saw. Beautiful.

The finale, another classic: the ‘peacock’ or multi-rider on a single bicycle act. One by one, nine riders jump on the bicycle going around and around the stage. When all nine riders are in position, they open their hand-fans and, poof – a peacock!

The Chinese never disappoint and this troop is not one to be missed. The Diabolo and Antipodist acts alone were well worth fighting the crowds through Times Square to get there!

Raphael Harris

Raphael Harris was the proprietor of the Jerusalem Circus School for Children for over ten years. He has performed "Sir Juggley's One Man Circus" over a thousand times. He appeared in the Guiness Book of World Records twice and the Record Setters Book of World Records three times. He lives in New York.

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