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Introduction to Chinese Acrobatics

Acrobatics is generally known as the performance of extraordinary feats of balance, agility and motor coordination. It is a part of many performing arts as well as many sports.

Chinese acrobats are famous the world over for their extraordinary physical strength, agility and flexibility, and acrobatics have been a part of Chinese culture since the Western Han Dynasty over 2500 years ago, where they were a part of village harvest festivals. During the Tang Dynasty, acrobatics developed into a method of court display, and in modern times is an important part of what is known as Chinese variety art (a collection of performances including acrobatics, balancing arts and other spectacles including martial arts and lion dancing). Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 the art forms have gained new respectability, with troupes established in the provinces, autonomous regions and special municipals with theatres specifically designed for the variety arts. The 1990s saw a resurgence in Chinese acrobatics and variety art, with the 1994 show ‘Golden Wind of the Southwest’ paving the way for the important cultural significance Chinese variety art and acrobatics enjoy today.

A performance of Chinese acrobats may include several acts, including tightrope walking, contortionist acrobatics, balancing while playing the Chinese yo-yo, unicycling and circus-like tricks, lion dancing and martial arts or Wushu-like demonstrations. Some acts are universal, although smaller troupes may include different acts.

Famous acrobatic troupes include the Chinese State Circus, an international touring group dedicated to showing Chinese culture to Europe, and the Chinese Acrobatics Troupe, the most distinguished group of acrobats in China. 

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