With the beauty of gymnastics in full display during the recently concluded 30th Southeast Asian Games, our attention is captured by the graceful sports, so to speak: ice skating, synchronized swimming, among them.
This December, a Chinese acrobatic show is the main Christmas presentation of the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Called “The All-New Grand China Acrobatic Circus,” it features the multi-awarded performances of the China National Acrobatic Troup (CNAT). The group is the first national performing arts group established by the Central Government of China and founded in 1950.
The troupe honed and perfected its craft in Beijing where it was established. It has become where the troupe honed and perfected their craft to become one of the most decorated acrobatic troupes in Asia with 67 golden awards from local and international award-giving bodies. The group has performed in 132 countries with the Philippines as its 133rd destination.
Which got me thinking. Acrobats must be athletes too, aren’t they? And extraordinary ones at that. Their balance can be described as superhuman. Their motor coordination, superb. Their agility, out of this world.
Acrobatics are gymnasts, but they are more than that. They are dancers, aerialists, sometimes contortionists, tightrope walkers or hand walkers. Do they train as hard for their art as gymnasts, figure skaters and synchronized swimmers train for their sport?
They do. Maybe harder.
Just like Tiger Woods and all other phenomenal athletes who are international Idols, acrobats start training for their craft as children, usually eight to nine years old, sometimes younger. They train for seven to eight hours everyday on basic skills and performance rehearsals, under the watchful eyes of their coaches, Mr. Wang Xiaosheng and Mr. Wu Yong who also performs along side the younger acrobats.
But unlike world-renowned athletes, these perfectly trained artist-athletes remain anonymous and perform their art out of pure love for what they’re doing, not to compete for medals and universal rankings.
They just toil through every dreary day of getting to be technically perfect. But they do it with love and are content to be part of a group, no individual achievements here. Besides gymnastics, acrobats also lift weights, swim and perform martial arts to make their bodies achieve both grace and strength. But beyond just the physical and technical preparation, they also train in drama and get to perform for film and television. Acrobats must always be in tune with the feeling of their act and also practice that art. They are primarily entertainers, not competitive athletes, after all.
Each artist has to go through six years of training in the craft before he or she can perform on stage. Because the acrobatic show is essentially a variety show, the acrobats can perform in four to five different acts a night. Some artists are solo artists because nobody else can execute the acts that they do.
The 70-year-old CNAT views its performances in the Philippines this Christmas as “very special.” The troupe closes its 69th anniversary in Manila and will also open their 70th year anniversary performing before Filipinos.
CNAT’s world-class acts have been recognized by prestigious award-giving bodies as “the most spectacular, most enthralling, boldest, most daring and eye-pleasing acts in the world.” One of these signature acts is entitled “Gorgeous Girls with Diabolo” (Chinese Yo-yo) starring Peking Opera’s Huadan (Heroine) in beautifully choreographed diabolo techniques and dances. The sequences are highlighted by the performers’ visually stunning costumes.
The Gorgeous Girls with Diabolo was awarded the President Award of the 26th International Circus Festival of Tomorrow in France; the Golden Clown Award of the 37th International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo; the Gold Award of the 12th Budapest Festival in Hungary; and the Gold Award of the 1st International Festival of Circus Art on Fontanka in Saint Petersburg.
CNAT will also perform “The Ninth Wave” (Skills on Poles) an interpretation of the famous Russian painter Ivan Aivazovsky’s work depicting soldiers braving the angry ocean. This act received the Golden Chrysanthemum Award of the 10th Chinese Acrobatics Competition; the Golden Tiger Award of the 4th China International Circus Art Festival; and the Special Award and Silver Clown Award of the 43rd International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo.
The All-new Grand China Acrobatic Circus will run until January 4, 2020, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Tickets can be bought through www.ticketnet.com.ph or via the Araneta City Mobile app.
Hey, Merry Christmas, everybody!