9:26am Friday 4th May 2012
By Jonathan Wilkes
ShangHi is an odyssey of acrobatics, dance, martial arts and music from China-based Cirque du Ciel.
It is a wondrous display of skill, artistry and inconceivable acts of agility and courage.
It opens with a young girl struggling to sleep through the noise of Shanghai, resulting in dreams of dizzying fantasy. The beginning is gentle, but this is the deep breath before the plunge.
After her hand-balancing of remarkable versatility and power, ShangHi is a sensory salvo.
Aided by stentorian music and live drumming, mood lighting and evocative projections, beautifully costumed artists moved seamlessly from one corporeal feat to another.
From martial arts including feet-juggling by the youngest of the troupe to a moving ballet sequence, they utilised every inch of the stage.
Diablo tricks, hoop acrobatics and rhythmic gymnastics astounded and were of course in perfect synchronisation with the rataplan of drums (which were also juggled using feet).
This circus also knows how to clown around, with the disco-themed Mexican hat juggling being an uproarious treat.
Cirque du Ciel (or Circus Of The Sky) fully lives up to its name.
Aerial rings, ropes and silks – as well as the explosive finale using Chinese Monkey poles – filled the air.
Stunned silences and standing ovations were testament to the multi-talented and tireless youngsters and the hours of practice they have dedicated to their craft.
ShangHi is both heart-warming and heart-stopping: where east meets west and grace meets strength. It is impossible to leave Cirque du Ciel’s company without a sense of wonder.
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