The limits of the human body and strength of gravity will be tested as the Peking Acrobats take center stage in Modesto.
The troupe of some of the world’s best tumblers, contortionists, jugglers, cyclists and gymnasts brings the 2,000-year-old tradition of Chinese acrobatic artistry to the Gallo Center for the Arts on Jan. 19. This is the Chinese group’s 28th tour of the United States; the group made its Western debut in 1986.
Cynthia Dike-Hughes has been a co-producer of the show for the past 25 years. The production prides itself in stunts that seemingly defy gravity and human physics. The act ranges from wire-walking to trick cycling, precision tumbling and balancing acts.
This tour will feature 27 performers, including acrobats and musicians. New this tour is the inclusion of performers from the Jigu Thunder Drums of China company. The group of world-renowned drummers and percussionists will accompany the acrobats during some of their acts.
Performers range in age from about 13 to 25. Most performers age 16 or older, the age of emancipation in China, though a few child prodigies are mixed into the production, Dikes-Hughes said. All of the performers have been selected from magnet schools in China that specialize in the acrobatic craft. Some of the acrobats have the profession in their ancestry, with generations of performers in one family. Most started when they were as young as 5.
“It is considered a great honor for someone to be accepted to their schools,” Dikes-Hughes said. “Very often, parents who were acrobats encourage their children to go into the acrobatic life as well. It is an honor to be an acrobat in China. They’re considered similar to how an American or Western opera star is seen. They travel the world and make good money.”
The Peking company tries to remain true to roots of the Chinese acrobatic art form. Dikes-Hughes said the production is about letting the performers shine.
“You see what is possible, what the human body is capable of doing,” she said. “The human possibility factor is there, and it is awe inspiring. It makes people want to be the best they can be in their chosen field when they leave because they see how skilled, happy and talented these performers are.”