Cirque Shanghai brings high-flying fun to Navy Pier
By Jim Hagerty, Staff Writer
For the past four years, Navy Pier in Chicago has been the home of the world’s most popular circus juggling and acrobatic acts. Cirque Shanghai’s Bright Spirit is composed of more than 25 performers, all from China, who live in Chicago while the production fills the Pepsi Skyline Stage.
Comparable to the Canadian Saltimbanco, the Chinese act contains no drama or storyline, only sense-stimulating acrobatics, juggling, tumbling, high-flying swing acts and contortionist bits. The show runs through Sept. 3, and draws spectators from across the country. To event officials, Bright Spirit is a welcomed addition to Navy Pier, capping the already palpable festival and summer fair atmosphere.
While some acts are done with ropes in case performers miss their marks, others such as the Russian Barre, are pulled off without safety equipment and rely on skill, concentration and athleticism.
Performers are hand-picked from a variety of Chinese performance troupes. Each undergoes rigorous auditions and must be in excellent shape—both physically and mentally—to keep up the requirements of being in a high-flying act day in and day out. Some weeks, performers do two and three shows per day.
“It’s been going very well since June,” Director Dwight Jordan said. “This is a very talented group of performers.”
The tent-like arena is covered by a hybrid circus big-top, complete with a raised stage and lights while still offering the atmosphere of being outdoors. Jordan said the attraction is popular with children and adults. Kids, he said, are often amazed at the feats they see just feet from the seats. Some audience members enter the area oblivious of what they’ll see during the 75-minute show. The unsure have their curiosities satisfied from the moment the opening curtain rises.
“I have never seen an act up close where performers literally have their lives in each other’s hands,” said one spectator. “I’d pay five times what I paid to see this.”
What makes Bright Spirit special is the collective challenge the shows brings to both performers and audiences. For the spectator, witnessing an acrobat be catapulted 20 or 30 feet in the air and do a series of flips before landing on an elevated seat held up by another performer comes with a bit of suspense. For the performers, they often get one chance to get it right.
“This is an athletic event,” Jordan added. “It’s challenging because things don’t always happen as scripted.”
Cirque Shanghai’s Bright Spirit tickets are $12.50 for children ages 3 to 12, $14.50 for adults and $29.50 for premium seats. Tickets can be purchased at Navy Pier Box Office by calling 1-800-595-PIER, or by visiting www.navypier.com.
from the July 29-August 4, 2009, issue
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