Beijing Acrobatic Troupe – Deliver Classic Shows by Honoring Tradition and Embracing Innovation

2022-May-6 17:35 By:

Classic show of Beijing Acrobatic Troup: Pole-climbing

Tiger jump Vertical sit-up Walk up Backflip Front-flip Cat jump Somersault in the air Bouncing between two poles Trio somersault Flip landing

In the rehearsal hall of Beijing Acrobatic Troupe located at No.11 Fayuansi Street, Xicheng District, a group of youngsters aged 11 to 18 are in intense rehearsals of the troupe’s classic show “Pole-climbing”, practicing a series of difficult moves on two metal poles of 6.2 meters high.

Geng Hengrui, Beijing Acrobatic Troupe Performer

I am 16 years old, and I have been practicing acrobatics for 8 years. The “somersault in the air” move alone takes a week and half in practice as you have to somersault from one pole to the other, and quickly grip onto the pole with both legs. You may bump your head if you over-stretch the somersault, so you have to control the distance very well.

Pole-climbing coach of Beijing Acrobatic Troupe: Zhou Zenghua

I began teaching pole-climbing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and moved somersault skills from the ground to the pole. The ground is flat, but the pole is standing. You need to figure out how to turn around and somersault in the air, how to use your strength and grip onto the pole after every move so you won’t fall on the ground. Every move requires tens of thousands of repetitions in training.

In 1957, Beijing Acrobatic Troupe came into being at Beijing’s Tianqiao, a landmark site of folk culture in Beijing. It was formed by the government after pooling together street performers in the area. In 2021, the troupe was designated as a unit under protection with its iconic intangible cultural shows of “Tianqiao Acrobatics”. While inheriting traditional skills, the troupe has constantly innovated its shows. The new acrobatic show of “Pole-climbing” won the highest prize at the 3rd Moscow International Acrobatic Festival and the second prize of “Audience’s Favorite Show” at the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in 2008, and so far the show has been performed by over 15,000 times at home and abroad.

Production Director of Beijing Acrobatic Troupe: Fu Rao

“Pole-climbing” is an original production of Beijing Acrobatic Troupe, and has a history of 50 to 60 years. The earliest inherited moves were done on one single pole, which later evolved into two poles, allowing the acrobats to somersault in between the two poles.

Pole-climbing is for the guys and diabolo is for the girls at Beijing Acrobatic Troupe. Incorporating such stunts as rope skipping, diabolo catching while spinning, etc., the show has won the gold medal at the 9th International Circus Festival of Tomorrow in Paris, and the show was also staged at the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in 2021.

Diabolo Coach Beijing Acrobatic Troupe: Lift your legs! Three, four, five, six, seven, eight!

Acrobatic Coach Beijing Acrobatic Troupe: Xue Yao

This is an acrobatic skill with the hand, so you have to repeatedly practice like that, first control the diabolo very well, that’s why we train 50 minutes nonstop in each session, and then you need to practice the small skills. Eventually when you become familiar with the small tricks, you move on to the big ones. It’s just like practicing somersault. Apart from those skills, teamwork is also crucial.

Zhang Yaxin, acrobat of Beijing Acrobatic Troupe

I have been practicing acrobatics for 12 years. I think the difficult part is the spinning, because you get dizzy, and you have to keep looking for the diabolo while spinning. If you spin for a long time, you can feel the blood at your fingertips because you are truly spinning very fast.

While improving and innovating traditional shows, the Beijing Acrobatic Troupe also cooperates with pioneering modern dance artists and draws inspiration from mythological stories to create storytelling acrobatic dramas such as “Nuwa Mends the Sky”, “Fighting Water” and “Battle of Zhuo Lu”, which revitalize the old acrobatic skills with a new body language and tell the Chinese stories to global audience.

Yang Jingrong, Head of Beijing Acrobatic Troupe

A few decades ago, acrobatics was more skill-oriented than art-oriented, but today it’s both skill and art, and it has to be entertaining. That’s why we contextualize the show in a story, and combine acrobatics with drama and modern dance, so it’s more enjoyable for the audience.

In the future, Beijing Acrobatic Troupe will continue to preserve its traditions and commit to innovation. While inheriting and reconstructing the difficult, miraculous, spectacular and beautiful acrobatic moves, the troupe will produce even greater shows to meet people’s spiritual and cultural needs.

Editor: Zhang Zhou
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