In ancient times, the art that we know as Chinese acrobatics apparently was called things like “miscellaneous arts” and “varied skills and music” – a sort of “what have you” of performance skills.
In this vein, the Golden Dragon Acrobats combine acrobatics, gymnastics, traditional Asian dance (with loads of small, subtle gestures and elaborate finger and hand movement), spectacular costumes (which frequently to my mind make you wonder how they move as they do in some of the dress they wear), ancient and contemporary music in the eastern vein, and pure theatrical technique that keeps audiences focused and entranced as the actors/dancer/acrobats do their thing.
Maybe “Cirque Ziva” is like Cirque de Soleil on steroids, since the title clearly connects to the cirque genre and its mixture of high art and street performance kinds of acts.
The Dragons began in 1967 with the Chang family, of whom son Danny and his sister, choreographer Angela, now lead the group that honed its theatrical experience in the United States.
Danny Chang began his training at the age of eight with his family’s acrobatic school in Taipei, and joined its touring wing, the Golden Dragon Acrobats, at age 10. Later, when he came of age and the opportunity arose, he took over as head of the troupe.
He is reportedly the recipient of many awards, including the prestigious Medal for International Faith and Goodwill by the Republic of China’s Coordination Council for North American Affairs.
Under his direction, the Dragons’ members include athletes, actors and artists who have studied and trained for their craft since early childhood. The group averages 200 performances each year and has toured through all 50 states in the USA and in over 65 countries around the world.
So the performance isn’t just acrobatics. It’s dance, a kind of visual magic, and unusual music – all woven together to awe audience members. Part of the ability to do that comes from the group (like STOMP and others) using their bodies and simple props that include everyday objects like plates, jugs, bicycle, umbrellas and the like, plus some novel uses of fad items, like their version of hula hoops and a jungle gym-like apparatus.
The Golden Dragon Acrobats will perform “Cirque Ziva” at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 21, at the Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main St., Akron; 330-253-2488; www.akroncivic.com. Tickets are $20-$35 (children $10-$25).