Review: Peking Acrobats bring well-balanced finale to 2011 for DSSOI went home after the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra concert Saturday night remembering a couple of things my stomach muscles would do 48 years ago. Also some things they never would do. Watching two dozen very masterful young Chinese bodies certainly made for a good night’s sleep. The music was rather entertaining as well.
By: Samuel Black, for the News Tribune
I went home after the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra concert Saturday night remembering a couple of things my stomach muscles would do 48 years ago. Also some things they never would do. Watching two dozen very masterful young Chinese bodies certainly made for a good night’s sleep. The music was rather entertaining as well.
A large platform in the Amsoil Arena was set up for the DSSO and its special New Year’s Eve guests, the Peking Acrobats. For two hours we watched human bodies move and create postures that most of us never attempt. Wisely. Just imagining the preparation these young men and women subject themselves to is exhausting. But they actually did it, live, and in front of a large number of observers. Occasionally they dropped hats or knocked over hoops, but they casually restored order and carried on without a concern.
Maestro Mariusz Smolij was back on the podium for his second appearance in this year of five candidate conductors. The DSSO always sounds diminutive in the Amsoil Arena, but the “landscape” arrangement this year was considerably more pleasing than the “portrait” pattern last year. The music was light, and the orchestra played a couple of pieces to celebrate its versatility. For the most part, however, the music was simply a backdrop for the Chinese contortionists.
All the promotional pictures you may have seen the past few weeks are true, and far more amazing when they happen on stage immediately in front of you. Men and women, all about the same physical size, twisted, leaped, juggled, balanced, bicycled and climbed across the stage and all over each other. I was too far away to distinguish faces, but I’m sure several acrobats were on stage on more than one occasion. The stamina and concentration is clearly unbelievable.
Once, about a dozen performers crossed the stage with spinning plates on long poles. Without a pause they took turns laying down, climbing on one another and trading poles until the music stopped. No plates ever dropped, and all plates continued spinning from beginning to end. Another time, a fellow rode his bicycle around the stage. One by one he picked up nine other passengers and kept riding around in circles the whole time.
The entire audience quit breathing, however, as one young man hopped onto a high table and placed a chair on top of what looked like four candlesticks. He balanced on the chair, then requested another chair. His friends kept bringing him chairs, until he had six chairs delicately balanced on top of each other. As he stretched upward, supported by one hand, he changed his mind, re-arranged the top chair at an angle, and stretched again. Phenomenal. One by one he dismantled his structure and ultimately dropped to the floor. The audience breathed. Maybe the DSSO was playing, but nobody noticed at that point.
The Peking Acrobats were definitely a well-
balanced finale to the year. 2011 has passed, but there still are seven more DSSO events in this current season, with five different conductors. It will indeed be a happy new year.
Samuel Black is a Duluth musician and writer who prefers making music to doing handstands.