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Review: Bai Xi by Cirque Shanghai

Cirque Shanghai wows young audiences with Bai Xi at the New Victory Theater.

Aubrey Haynes

Time Out Ratings

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Chinese acrobats have been dazzling crowds with their otherworldly feats of contortion and strength for 2,000 years, long before P.T. Barnum or Cirque du Soleil ever pitched their first tent; Cirque Shanghai brings some of that jaw-dropping action to the New Victory Theater with its latest show, Bai Xi (meaning "1000 Amazing Acts"), through New Year's Day. What's truly amazing is how the Shanghai-based circus troupe fits larger-than-life acts like the "Wheel of Death" (two agile performers run like hamsters and even jump rope on giant pair of a rotating, spinning metal wheels) on the compact stage of the parlor-size theater. And while some of the tricks may seem like things you've seen before, it soon becomes clear that the ensemble always adds an extra layer of danger: The lithe contortionists do all those backbends and splits while wearing long fake-fingernail doohickeys that could do some serious damage if they were to slip; the roller-skating duo perform their lifts and spins while making tiny circles around a rink no larger than a kitchen table. Other highlights include an elegant pas de deux performed by aerialists swinging from silk scarves, and a ballerina who does some backward arabesques—while balancing on one toe on some dude's head! But the crowd favorite was clearly the petite gymnast (no taller than many members of the young audience) who stacked and climbed what looked like ordinary dining-room chairs until her hair was scraping the theater ceiling. Parents throughout the theater were undoubtedly whispering, "Don't try this at home!"
Bai Xi plays at the New Victory Theater through Sun Jan 1. $17--$55. Ages 4 and up.

Cirque Shanghai. 80 mins with no intermission.

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