Acrobatic Ballet and the Defiance of Gravity
Two thousand years ago during the Han Dynasty, during the reign of Emperor Chengdi(reigned 32-7BC), there lived a dancer named Zhao Feiyan who had mastered the art of walking on air. Her body was as light as a soaring swallow, and she could effortlessly dance upon a person’s outstretched palm.
Zhao Feiyan won the love and favor of the Emperor, and in 16 BC he made her his Empress. Her ability to dance in defiance of gravity became known and admired throughout the land. But before long, Em-peror Chengdi died, and Zhao Feiyan was persecuted to death in the subsequent palace struggle. Her art died with her, but “dancing on an outstretched palm”became a metaphor for artistic perfection that has lasted until the present day.
It was not until the end of the twentieth century that this ancient dancer’s art was once more brought to life. Blending the legendary art of defying gravity with the elegance of ballet and the thrill of ac-robatics, Chinese acrobats created two new acrobatic acts, Lightbulb Ballet and The Eastern Swan.
Lightbulb Ballet, by the Flag Circus of China, made its debut in 1994. Inspired by the traditional folk skill of “walking on eggs,”this original creation combines buoyancy, balance, and balletic technique.
Floating on pointed toes, the artist dances atop lightbulbs fragile as a cicada’s wing, as easily as if on solid ground. Embodying the classic elegance of ballet while sacrificing none of the thrills of acrobatics, this act displays the best of both art forms. With its completely new form and content, Lightbulb Ballet is the first acrobatic act to be granted a creative copyright.
The Eastern Swan, by the Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe, is unique in that it condenses the entire balletic stage in the body of a male dancer, whose back, shoulders, and head provide the footing for his female partner. As the female dancer performs a series of classic ballet moves on her partner’s body, the gifted pair keep the audience riveted to their every move with the addition of thrilling acrobatic lifts, tosses, and flips. Utilizing both the classic movements of ballet and the demanding techniques of acrobatics, this act melds the beauty and precision of the two art forms into a flawless whole.
Transcending the limits of both modern acrobatics and classic ballet, Lightbulb Ballet and The Eastern Swan have drawn rave reviews for their unprecedented artistic achievement. Aficionados of ballet claim both pieces to be “incredible breakthroughs,”while acrobatic enthusiasts pronounce them a “rev-olution that challenges humanity’s creativity and physical limits.”