Caltech Presents
Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats
Review by Ross Anthony

It's not perfect, but this is a fun, all-ages show. A bare stage, white curtain backdrop, and periodic audience participation give this acrobatic show a homegrown feeling. Comprised of sixteen set "acts," this production lacks an emotional arch, but makes up for it with some awe-inspiring spectacle.

The show begins with a circus of performers in various positions of balance. My favorite -- a unicycle atop a spinning umbrella. I was close enough to notice a metal bar clamping the cycle to the umbrella's pole -- it still looks great for the 5 seconds it's on stage before clearing for the Chinese Lions (each lion is operated by two men).

The lions play/frolic, a crowd-pleaser. Though I would have liked to see them spend more time on the five-base platform, I did enjoy the big ball walk (both lions on a six-foot diameter ball). Also, I could see they were chained together.

Even more amazing: vase spinning. Three women, lying on their backs, each kick at a vase keeping it in the air with their feet. As with most of these acts, this one starts at the simple level and progresses to more impressive levels of difficulty. Actually, I found this act consistently impressive, spinning, tossing passing. And if that wasn't enough, one woman flipped another woman by this method. And then off with the vases and on with the tables. Three women, keeping three tables in the air with their feet -- absolutely awesome.

Tumbling men hop and roll through hoops at various heights. Pleasant enough, but not really spectacular, save for the last one -- a back flip through a hoop whose center is placed about a foot and a half taller than the leaper himself. Very impressive.

Graceful, unbelievable, and a tad freakish, elegant women slowly contort their bodies -- making one body look like two. Place a plastic candle-opera on one foot, nice, but then placing five more (using hands and mouth) lessens the effect.

The men come out and clown around with a couple of 20-foot bamboo poles, balancing them on their chins etc.-- mildly amusing. The clowning continues with a balloon -- the kids love it. When the balloon pops on a front row seat holder, a performer shoots two crying streams of tears from his trick glasses. I liked that!

Some knife juggling, but it was the hat juggling that got the audience going. Fun, grand, with a slick Fred Astair elegance and Groucho Marx visual whit.

Also included: some spear poking flesh, some brick breaking with the head, but I appreciated more the simple (or complex) Kung-Fu posing and impressive sculpted bodies, these fit guys displayed.

One act peppered the stage with women, each spinning six plates atop six sticks. Unfortunately, not so majestic, especially after what we'd seen before. Also, I saw one plate stop spinning, but it didn't fall off the stick. And then when three others fell, they didn't make noise. ???

Proceeding with the clowning, one guy juggles eggs, pretending to drop one into the crowd. Then pulling a "volunteer" from the audience, they strap him to a wall and play a spear-throwing joke on him. This bit is quite funny (for us in the audience - I'm not sure what the bloke on stage thought).

But the absolute most awe-inspiring stunt: A gentle woman handstands atop six stacked chairs, which are resting on four champagne bottle on a table. She must have been 25 feet above the floor. Simply awesome -- stirring, several folks in the audience gasped emotionally.

Also fun, a man balancing on a ladder, with a flower in vase on his chin. And topping that, they wind their bodies 25 feet up and down a leather strap like yo-yos.

Finally, some tumbling formations, human pyramid stuff -- fluff, ten people on one bike and the finale in which the troop claps itself into a standing ovation.

In general, these talented performers are obviously incredibly skilled, disciplined, well-trained athletes. There's no need to "fake worry" (one performer pretends he's scared when another is about to do a daring stunt). There's no need to fake like a knife is sharp (pretend poke his finger on the end and mimic pain). And there's no need to bring select objects to the audience for authentication -- show them all or none. When you show only two, we question the rest. All of these gimmicks are unnecessary, because the performers have real skills. I'd like to see all of that cut from the show -- it's more than sufficiently long in duration as is. That said, the clowning around is good, the kids ate it up.

Imperfect, room for improvement, but still great family fun and at times awe-inspiring.

  • Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats. Copyright © 2003.
  • Group Leader: Mr. Jie Peng.
  • Produced by International Asia Inc.
  • Review based on the November 15th,2003 performance at Caltech Pasadena, CA.

Copyright © 1998-2022 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:53:58 PDT