Circus on Ice
Thrilling acrobatics, and fabulous figure skating. Both are big audience pleasers. But what would it be like to combine the two? The Heilongjiang Ice Acrobatic Team, the first and only of its kind in China, has the amazing answer.
The Heilongjiang Acrobatic Troupe and its Ice Acrobatic Team have left Harbin for a series of performances in Beijing. Their show on ice is a new and exciting variation of traditional acrobatics. The icy stage adds elements of body and movement controls never seen before.
Replacing the Harbin Acrobatic Troupe in 1970, the Heilongjiang Acrobatic Troupe has created a number of programs with Heilongjiang's characteristics.
In its decades of development and artistic pursuits the troupe brought home many prizes they received both in domestic and international contests.
Guan Xinmin, Director of Heilongjiang Acrobatic Troupe, said, "There are over 300 city-level acrobatic troupes in China. Since the 1980s, it has become very difficult for traditional acrobatic troupes to survive amidst the fierce competition."
Inspired by the Russian ice acrobatics shows, the Heilongjiang Acrobatic Troupe decided to combine the fine elements of figure skating and acrobatics. In 2005, China's first and only ice acrobatic performing team was established in Harbin. The launch of the performing group was not only an artistic innovation, but also the way out for the stagnant traditional acrobatics performances. However, the ice rink was totally different from the regular acrobatic floors they were used to.
Jiao Chunmei, Ice Acrobat, said, "At the very beginning I often fell down. For example, when we practiced the basic movements, we could not keep balance."
There are over 30 young performers in the troupe now, and they average 22 years of age. Each of them has a career background of at least four years of acrobatics and three years of ice-skating.
By now, the young ice acrobats are familiar with the strict training, and they are well aware of the danger brought by the blades of the skates.
Acrobats said, "I always worry about hurting my partner when doing the back flip."
"Yeah, that is true. If the skates touch my arm slightly, I would get seriously hurt."
After five years of training, practicing and performing, the ice acrobatic team of the Heilongjiang Acrobatic Troupe eventually got the chance to show off their unique skills on a larger stage - Beijing. That was in the middle of 2010.
Xia Dong, General Manager of Oriental Phoenix Cultureal Development Co., said, "After I watched the ice acrobatics, I was deeply touched. And I had the idea to bring the performances to Beijing and let the whole world know of this performing art."
In August 2010, the first original acrobatics and dance on ice rinks, named "Aurora Fairyland" was staged on the world's largest indoor ice theater - Longtan Park Central Island Theater in Beijing. The performance agreement was signed to last ten years.
During the 70-minute performance, the show on ice displays acrobatic stunts, skating, dance and music with forms of fairytale and fantasy.
A foreign Audience Member said, "It is absolutely fantastic. I have never seen anything like this before in my life. I am 52 years old and I've seen quite a lot of things. This is amazing and really amazing."
At the end of 2010, the Heilongjiang Ice Acrobatic Team was granted the honor of "National Culture Industry Demonstration Base" by the Chinese Ministry of Culture.
Qi Jun, Deputy Director of Heilongjiang Culture Dept., said, "When the Heilongjiang Ice Acrobatic Team was established, the domestic artistic performing teams and units had not begun yet to carry out comprehensive reforms. The team has made efforts to survive in the fierce competition and could be a good example for other units."
The team plans to send actors and actresses to go on a tour abroad. Meanwhile, it will continue to create original programs in a bid to have better commercial operations and artistic performances.