Chinese Acrobat Show

As I watched the Chinese acrobats contort themselves and fling themselves across the stage, I couldn’t help but wonder how we could ever possibly hope to beat Chinese gymnasts in the Olympics. These acrobats were incredible! They bent and balanced, precisely timing their tricks, while still wobbling just enough to keep us all on edge lest a mishap occur. A few actually did. A few balls dropped. A plate fell. A girl lost her balance and came down off her pyramid. But they were minor mistakes in the acrobatic scheme of things. I mean, we are talking about people throwing other people across a stage, only to catch them in a handstand position with their bare hands.

The women looked like Barbie dolls that a rough child played with. Their legs were ratcheted up parallel to their bodies. They seemed to have the same hinged hips that Barbies have, but their knees bent, too. In fact, their knees and their backs bent around their bodies so far that they balanced plates on their heads and then removed them from behind their heads using their feet. It hurt to watch.

And then I wondered how in the world they ever trained for jobs such as these. Think about it. Their jobs are to contort their bodies night after night after night. How does one practice that? How do you even get started? What do you do with the rest of your day? As a mother, I do not think I’d want my children doing these things atop a stack of chairs that reach all the way up to the rafters.

Incredibly enough, at intermission I began talking to a Filipino woman sitting next to me. She said she used to do things like that and pointed to the stage. I thought she was kidding, but then she told me about balancing on a small table on top of a beer bottle. She said it was all about balance. I was flabbergasted. I asked her how she ever got started and she shrugged. She just did. She also twirled fire batons. I know my mouth was hanging open when she said that. I had to ask the obvious: had she ever gotten burned while she was learning how? She said yes, and left it at that.

She pointed back at the stage again and said that she was too old to do things like that now. Instead, she’d started doing magic acts and was actually in China to buy more supplies. I swear, I don’t know which was more entertaining: listening to this woman or watching the show.

Intermission ended and a man carried another man on his back as he walked on his hands up and down a ladder. That answered my question. The show won out.


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