Chinese acrobats have been tumbling through history since 700 B.C.
Carvings etched into stone walls and earthen pottery tell the tale of spectacular acrobatics in ancient times.
As legend goes, the father of ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius was one of those famous performers. He once lifted a 1,000-pound gate to a city that enabled an army to invade.
The New Shanghai Circus, which makes a stop in the Tri-Cities on Feb. 11, has a rich acrobatic history. The circus was founded in 1951.
"The art of Chinese acrobatics developed out of the Lunar New Year harvest celebrations where village peasants and craftsmen would hold a kind of Chinese Thanksgiving," said David Shaw, president of ArtBeat Shows, a nonprofit organization sponsoring the tour. "Acrobats would use household tools and common items found around the farm and workshop as part of their exciting feats."
Circus performers passed down their skills from generation to generation, forming acrobatic families who have entertained the masses for centuries.
"Today, only a few descendants of the old and famous acrobatics families remain," Shaw said. "Those individuals organized China's traditional entertainers into professional acrobatic troupes with formal academies for training young, promising entertainers and internationally renowned companies."
Shaw added that the show's grand finale is a sight to see, with acrobats forming human skyscrapers while changing shapes, and a balancing act that will boggle the mind.
There are about 120 professional acrobatic troupes performing throughout China and more than 12,000 performers.
"The New Shanghai Circus has its roots in the everyday lives of the village peasants, farmers and craftsmen of the Han Dynasty," Shaw said.
Grace Zhao, stage manager of the New Shanghai Circus, said via email that the circus is a two-hour show that includes about 16 to 18 acts such as contortion, juggling, high wire, balancing, aerial acts and more.
"We also invited Chongquing Art and Acrobatic Troupe to perform on our tour," she said. "This is an excellent group of performers."
She added that the acrobats for this show range in age from 16 to 30.
"There are no families in the group," she added. "They have been in the troupe for many years, so they are just like brothers and sisters."
Showtime is 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Richland High School, 930 Long Ave.
Tickets cost from $25 to $35 for adults and $12 for kids. Tickets are available at Tri-City Bookworm stores, www.brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org