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Jaw dropping acrobatic spectacles
backed by mysterious sounds

"Cirque Shanghai: Bright Spirit"
Pepsi Skyline Stage
Chicago, IL
June 4, 2009
Cirque Shanghai: Bright Spirit

Story by Andy Argyrakis
Publicity photos

With a wealth of Cirque-styled entertainment acts on the road, it isn't always easy to tell the difference between a high quality show and a cheap knockoff. But in the case of Cirque Shanghai, the veteran troupe has already proven itself across three seasons at Pepsi Skyline Stage on the campus of Navy Pier, being dubbed by both locals and tourists as "Chicago's Summer Circus."

Come 2009, the program has been changed and re-introduced as "Cirque Shanghai: Bright Spirit," which once again features jaw dropping acrobatics, but perhaps the most ambitious series of stunts, costumes and chorography for the company to date. Under the direction of co-founders Haiping Ge (a graduate of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and Shanghai Opera Institute veteran) and Mike Wilson (son of magician Mark Wilson and longtime Chinese acrobat show producer), the program is ripe with stunts of physical prowess and an ambiguous (but still entertaining) storyline about inner discovery.

Take for instance the "Welcome Spirit" opening, a flurry of body twirls, dress swirls and airborne introductions. From there, the program was filled with colorful contortionists, hair raising hoop divers, bizarre ball juggling and synchronized plate spinning. Though not nearly as death defying, a section called "Hat Juggling" was amongst the most awe-inspiring where performers switched caps at lightening speed in between back flips.

The same could be said about "Team Jump Rope," a hip-hop interlude loaded with dancers diving in and out of a rapidly spinning cable. However, the most visually arresting moment was the seesaw/catapult contraption that propelled acrobatics high above the stage with their bodies landing on the feet of an incredibly muscular man with his back arched against a bench.

Along the way, there's plenty of heart-pounding music, which wouldn't exactly be worthy of purchasing a soundtrack, but certainly augments the show with excitement and intrigue. Ranging between pulsating instrumental pop to indigenous instrumentation of mystical proportions, there's plenty to devour in this well rounded sensory experience.

"Cirque Shanghai: Bright Spirit" runs at various times through September 7 at Pepsi Skyline Stage at Navy Pier. For additional details, visit

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