Well balanced acts

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 February, 2007, 12:00am

The Hebei Acrobatic Troupe will usher in the Lunar New Year with an array of gravity-defying feats.

The Hong Kong tour features a cast of 22 acrobats aged 11 to 28, who will perform in eight shopping malls starting tomorrow.

The award-winning troupe was founded in 1976 in Wuqiao , in south-eastern Hebei province . Known as the Chinese Acrobatic Village, Wuqiao is the birthplace of China's acrobatics.

There have been acrobatics troupes there for 2,500 years, there are now more than 60 private acrobatic schools.

Billed as the 'ambassadors of acrobatics', the group has already performed in more than 60 countries and in most cities in the mainland, but this is the debut Hong Kong performance.

The show includes a dozen high-flying acts, such as rotating hoop-diving, in which performers continuously somersault and dive through columns of rotating hoops.

The troupe will also perform diabolo tricks and a festive lion dance which won the Gold Lion Prize at the first Wuqiao International Acrobatic Festival.

Zhang Yunyun, 15, will juggle umbrellas with her feet, a graceful act which has been practised for more than 1,000 years.

Although the paper umbrella is very light, throwing it the air and juggling it with the feet is physically demanding.

'You have to completely control and stabilise every inch of the body in order to balance the umbrella, because it's so light,' said Yunyun.

'But I like this act because the movement looks beautiful.'

The young acrobat started training aged five, under the influence of her grandparents who were veteran acrobats in the troupe.

Another highlight is 'twin balancing', an award-winning act performed by 23-year-old Wang Zhiqiang and 26-year-old Yuan Hwasin.

The act is one of the most troupe's most breath-taking, and featured at the Venice Carnival in March last year. The daredevil balancing act features a series of slow, graceful moves involving two male performers who support each other's bodies with their own.

'This is the most challenging act we've done. We have to spend almost seven hours a day to polish our skills because it involves great physical strength,' Yuan said.

Apart from fitness, cooperation is also important, said his partner Wang. The two star performers have developed a close bond since they were both selected to train at the Hebei Wuqiao Art Institute (formerly known as Wuqiao Acrobatic School) at the age of six.

They admitted that they see each other more than their families.

'We have not celebrated Lunar New Year with our families for the last four years,' Yuan said.

Hebei Acrobatic Troupe will greet audiences tomorrow, 1pm and 7pm, at East Point City in Hang Hau. They will then visit Chelsea Heights shopping arcade in Tuen Mun, Tsuen Kam Centre in Tsuen Wan, World Trade Centre in Causeway Bay. The last performance will be on February 20 at Sun Yuen Long Centre in Yuen Long. Admission is free.