China Circus On Ice
After months of training, the young performers of China’s only Ice Acrobatics troupe are ready to show the world their unique take on this ancient art. But an unexpected run of technical catastrophes threatens to destroy their dream.
In China, acrobatics is a time-honoured and much loved tradition. Across the country, young children dream of being plucked from obscurity and thrust into the dazzling and glamorous world of professional acrobatics. But for the millions who aspire to become professional acrobats, only a handful will ever get the opportunity to realise their ambition. And for those who are lucky enough to be chosen, life in a professional troupe means years of physical and emotional stress in return for the privilege of performing live.
But one Chinese acrobatic troupe places even greater demands on its young performers. Its director and coaches have pioneered a show that may be unique and spectacular, but also exposes the performers to a whole new set of dangers.
This is the Heilongjiang Acrobatic troupe–the only troupe in China that performs its shows on ice.
The Heilongjiang troupe is based in the northern city of Harbin: China’s ‘ice capital’. For residents of Harbin ice skating is second nature, but the Heilongjiang troupe hopes to take ice acrobatics to the rest of China – and then the world.
Cui Peilong is a young man living his dreams. He’s a team leader in the Heilongjiang Troupe and much is resting on the shoulders of this talented 19-year-old. Peilong is a graduate of the Wuqiao School of Acrobatic Arts in Hebei province. He’s an accomplished acrobat, but performing complicated routines on ice has been a whole new learning curve for him.
Sixteen-year-old Chen Yu is struggling with the opposite problem. Only two years ago, she was a national figure skating champion. Now she must learn to combine her skating talents with the challenging art of acrobatics.
For Cui Peilong, Chen Yu and the rest of the Heilongjiang troupe, the time for practice is almost over. They are about leave their Harbin base for a week-long season in Taiwan. This is the first time the troupe will perform its unique brand of acrobatics outside mainland China.
Anticipation and excitement are running high. The troupe arrives in Taipei ready to wow the locals. Despite a lack of rehearsal, the performers are confident that the pressure of a live audience will force them to lift their game.
But before they can even take to the stage, a major problem threatens the entire season – they have no ice. The ice making machine, which was especially transported from Harbin, isn’t working. What should be five centimetres of hard ice is nothing but a thin crust, covering hazardous trenches of unfrozen water. Merely skating on this surface is treacherous and highly dangerous, acrobatic manoeuvres will be almost impossible.
As the performers, coaches and choreographers attempt last-minute adaptations to the routines, technicians work around the clock trying to fix the equipment.
Meanwhile the marketing is in place, and the tickets are being sold.
In true show biz style they all agree that the show must go on–but will they be literally skating on thin ice?