There’s no arguing that the Chinese are the superior race when it comes to gymnastics. Whether it is their naturally compact and impossibly flexible bodies or their extensive training and work ethic that drives them to the top, they continue to amaze the world as they excel above the rest of us at the Olympics every year. The Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe is comprised of some of the best acrobats in China, and a seat at the nightly show was our chance to see these crazy little athletes up close and personal. It was a classier night than we were accustomed to, most the audience consisting of wealthy international tourists–and for good reason. From the moment the curtain dropped we were utterly floored by the performance. There were juggling unicyclists, plate spinning magicians. Gymnast flipped and dove through hoops, catapulted onto one another’s shoulders. A young girl, probably younger than 16 took the stage for a five minute solo performance in which she balanced herself in a one-arm pushup on a tall pole, all the while contorting her body into mind-boggling positions with the strength of a sumo wrestler and the poise of a ballerina.
My favorite part was a bit in which a young girl and boy danced the tale of a love story–wrapping themselves in the ribbons that hung from the ceiling, twirling themselves into satin knots and propelling themselves gracefully into the air, sailing effortlessly around the stage. Violins sang out a melody that was both sweet and melancholy, and I felt moved in a way I can’t quite describe. The things the human body (definitely not my body) can do are astounding. As the acts progressed, the stunts got increasingly challenging and dangerous, leaving the audience in a constant state of trepidation. But the acrobats performed each move with eerie precision, never once faltering.