The Peking Acrobats will bring their 2,000-year-old tradition of acrobatics to the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in Stowe on Friday, July 5, with shows at 3 and 7 p.m.

This troupe of elite gymnasts, cyclists, jugglers, acrobats and tumblers leaves family audiences spellbound with their daring demonstrations of strength, agility, balance and artistry, all performed in beautiful costumes with dazzling special effects. The Peking Acrobats have performed the world over for 35 years.

Members of the Peking Acrobats set the world record in 1999 for the tallest human chair stack when they balanced six people precariously atop six chairs, 21 feet up in the air, without safety lines. Later, troupe members were featured in the hit film “Ocean’s 11,” and two blockbuster sequels.

The Peking Acrobats’ performance is rooted in centuries of Chinese history and folk art. Records of acrobatic acts can be found as early as the Qin Dynasty (221-207 B.C.). According to author and historian Fu Qifeng, acrobatics originated from the people’s daily lives, drawing from their experiences in work, war, and sacrificial rites.

Acrobatics first became widespread among the common people during the Warring States Period in China (475-221 B.C.). It was believed that practicing acrobatics could steel one’s will, and increase physical strength and accuracy of movements.

During the Han Dynasty (207 B.C.-220 A.D.), acrobatics flourished, and were incorporated into court entertainments. It was at this time, according to Fu Qifeng, that Emperor Wu Di of the Han Dynasty presented the first grand acrobatic performances at the Imperial Court. This wide variety of juggling, tumbling, and magic acts came to be known as the “Hundred Entertainments.” Traditional Chinese court entertainments had been staid, dreary affairs with processional formality that bored the aristocracy and the Emperor, so the change was welcomed when the thrilling acrobatic amusements enjoyed by the common people were brought to the court.

Tickets are $23 to $45 at sprucepeakarts.org or 760-4634. 

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