Review: Cirque Shanghai

On Wednesday, we went to see Cirque Shanghai’s “Shanghai Warriors” at Navy Pier. Cirque Shanghai has been coming to Chicago in the summer for many years; I think that I’ve seen them the last four years. I consider it a real treat to see them. The show is very different from Circo Cheapo. It’s more about the spectacle and tricks than Circo, which focuses more on the artistry. But I find that it’s always fun and worthwhile to go. Plus the tickets are fairly cheap too (compared to the tickets in Las Vegas). The theme was Shanghai Warriors so they had some giant warrior statues at various points. There was martial arts but I was there for the circus.

This year was good fun. It started out with Chinese pole but with a twist. The poles were not secured at the bottom so they swung back and forth. Throughout the act, performers would breeze up and down the pole like it was the ground. And then several performers would swing poles at the same time and leap from one to another. Pretty freaking sweet.

My favorite act was these incredible duo acrobats. The base acrobat would do the amazing feat of swinging the flyer acrobat around his body like she was made of nothing. He’d would be lying down and then he’d flip her on top of him while he stood up. Amazing feats. But what made it even more impressive is that the flyer would do point throughout the act. In ballet, point is when the dancer goes on his or her toes; it’s really quite difficult and can hurt your toes. So this acrobat would do amazing acrobatic things and then balance on her toe. The most incredible was when she balanced on her toes on his head. It was really magnificent. I’ve never seen toe being employed like this before. I love when performers combine art forms. My all time favorite juggling act was in the Winter Circus in Paris where the artists combined juggling with tango. So beautiful.

There was also a wondrous duo silks act. It was a little different since the silks were shortened. They actually tied up the bulk of the silks at the top. However, they really made use of the space; the performers would fly around the stage. At one point, the male silks artist grasped the silks behind him and flew around the stage like the silks were wings. He looked like a butterfly with pure white wings. I’ve never seen that before. They also did some drops where the woman would be caught in the feet or arms of the guy while they soared through the air. And they even did the neck strap that had the lady twirl through the air. Very neat.

There was also a fun foot-juggling act. I have a soft spot in my heart for foot juggling since it impresses me how much people can do with their feet. This was a drum inspired act where the women would juggle drum-like objects on their feet. They even tossed a drum between them. Very cool. My only qualm was that they had drums set up to be played…but the women didn’t actually play them. As a percussionist, that was a little disappointing. But it was some awesome circus nonetheless.

There was another round of the wheel of death. This is a giant apparatus where two person-sized circles are on either end of a rotating apparatus. Think of a Ferris wheel with only two cars at either end. Performers get in the circles and spin the entire apparatus and then do amazing feats of daring do inside and outside the circles. As I mentioned previously in my post about Cirque de Soleil’s Zarkana, I think Cirque Shanghai does it better. I think they push it more (for better or for worse). The audience gasped at various points during this performance. You aren’t always sure that it is actually safe. (I also just read that an acrobat did injure himself during a show in November 2013 of Zarkana so yeah…) But the performers did things like go blind folded while walking the outside of the wheel or jump rope. It was thrilling to say the least.

And then there is the finale. We call it the sphere of death. Basically the show lowers a giant sphere from the ceiling. The act has five motorcyclists driving inside of this sphere in amazing loop de loops. It’s an incredible visual effect with the motorcycles, each with their own colored lights, swirls around this sphere. My only thing is that I’ve seen the show for four years and this has always been the finale. I’m not saying that it isn’t impressive and I’m sure it’s incredibly dangerous. But I’d like to see a different finale. That’s just me.

Overall, I’m very pleased we went. The show is on to September 1st. Check it out!

Afterwards, we had just enough time to get on the Ferris wheel to see the fireworks. It was a Wednesday night at Navy Pier in the summer. It’s a tricky thing to get the timing down but we managed it. The fireworks started going when we were in line inching closer to the front. I was worried we’d see the entire show from the line. But we managed to be on the Ferris wheel for the second half of the show. We saw the grand finale from the top, which was simply magical and brilliant. Highly recommended it if you can manage it.

That’s all for now!


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