by Isaac Rathbone · December 8, 2014
The programming at the New Victory Theater is always top-notch. With their diverse blend of artistry and talent, it’s hard to believe that their space is located in the midst of the retail sneaker stores and Disney Shows of Times Square. Their newest arrival, The Golden Dragon Acrobats Cirque Ziva, is a fantastic addition to their already strong season this year.
The Gold Dragon Acrobats, founded in 1967, are the only Chinese acrobatic company that tours year-round in the United States. Artistic Director Danny Chang and his wife Angela have created a wild and exciting piece of Circus Theater in Cirque Ziva. The evening is filled with visual delights, as the audience is treated to juggling acts, tumblers, rope tricks, balancing acts and dance with each being more mesmerizing than the last. The show is a treat for the eyes and senses. There are so many “how do they do that” moments, that it’s hard to keep track of them all. From the female contortionists who bend their bodies into human sculptures to the jugglers who pass volleyballs around with their feet, the only moment to really take it all in is during the intermission.
There are plenty of acts which one would expect from a typical Chinese Acrobat show, like the man balancing on top of tall stack of chairs and the “family bicycle” stunt (12 people on one bicycle). But what sets this apart from the others is the constant variety and the production value. There are so many different types of stunts and tricks that you never find yourself bored and if you feel yourself tire of something, have no fear. Something new will be on-stage before you know it. The show looks and sounds amazing as well, thanks to the show’s excellent design team. Costume designer Angela Chang showcases both contemporary styles, as well as some more traditional Chinese influenced pieces. Lighting Designer Gregory A. Kouvolo provides the right amount of fantasy and mystery to his design, while highlighting the performance’s excellent choreography. Some of the backdrops in the show give just enough of a suggestion of Chinese culture without inundating the audience.
There was plenty to take in during the performance and I almost wished that there had been a bit less, so that I could savor what I was seeing. Many times I found myself wanting more of a certain performance, but it was cut short. While this show has an embarrassment of riches, in terms of the unbelievable talent of the company, the evening can be a bit overwhelming on the senses. There are so many acts of such high caliber, that by the time the show ended, I felt somewhat overloaded. Unlike other “cirque”-like shows, “Ziva” did not have a story arc or strong central theme, and this may have led to the performance feeling the need to fill the evening with as much as it could.
As with all shows I review at the New Victory, I made sure to bring my son along to gauge his responses. And, as is the case with all shows we’ve seen at New Victory, he very much enjoyed what he saw. I highly recommend this show for kids ages 5 and up. This show is very entertaining and kids will get to see some things that are very unique and exciting to watch. My son was especially gripped, when the announcement was made to “not try this at home” when the acrobat was balancing himself on-top a giant stack of wooden chairs. He was also delighted to see the Lion come bounding across the stage, operated by two acrobats, and balancing itself on two giant balls and roll over a see-saw. He was also shocked, watching the contortionists. He even whispered to me, “Persons aren’t supposed to bend like that.” Cirque Ziva has so many moments when both the young and old have their breath taken away, that it is hard to think of another time and place when this can be seen again.
Cirque Ziva at the New Victory may not be a standard fare in terms of December Holiday entertainment. But don’t let that dissuade you from coming to see the Golden Dragon Acrobats. Their show is a breathtaking evening of fun.