Acrobatics galore will take over the Austad Auditorium in the Val Browning Center on Monday, Nov. 19, when the Shanghai Acrobats and Imperial Warriors of the Beijing Opera visit Weber State College in Ogden. Curtain is at 8 p.m., and tickets ranging from $5-$13 are available in advance at the Dee Events Center ticket office, 626-8500, or at the door.
The Shanghai Acrobats last toured America in 1988 and return with many new stars and an all-new program of jar juggling, the pagoda of bowls, the tower of chairs and the bar act. Since the troupe was formed in 1951, the acrobats have toured more than 20 countries and have won many awards in national competitions.The acrobatic art dates back thousands of years and was well established in the time of Confucius. The acrobat is as highly esteemed in China as ballerinas and opera singers are in America. Training begins at about age 8 in special academies, with basic training, five hours daily of practice and training in specific acts. Students must also pass a complete academic examination before being allowed to perform. First-time performers are usually 15 or 16 years old. There are some 250 acrobatic arts organizations in China, but membership in the Shanghai troupe is highly coveted, and once in, an acrobat has a lifelong occupation.
Chinese opera, at its most elaborate in Beijing, consists of grand opera, ballet, acrobatic display and a historic play all rolled into one, a tradition passed from generation to generation. The Imperial Warriors will re-create four of most popular martial sequences in the Peking Opera repertoire, including two battle scenes from the opera, "Monkey King Creates Havoc in Heaven." All excerpts will be fully staged and costumed, with makeup.
"The Monkey is a truly popular hero, for nothing is too big or too pompous for him to take on - even the whole court of heaven," said a company spokesman. "He is a very resourceful character, a puller-down of anything he feels like pulling down. In the minds of the Chinese people, Monkey has always represented the common man, scoring some of the victories which the people would like to score, against all the forces that are arrayed against him."
Today, some 400 people spend their years from 10 or 11 to 21 at the Beijing Opera Academy, growing up with the art while gaining education comparable to college degrees. Having learned the highly stylized art, they go out to strengthen the many hundreds of Beijing Opera troupes in great demand all over the land. Major cities all have permanent Beijing Opera companies, housed in theaters created especially for them.