Feats of Fantasy: Navy Pier's run of 'Cirque Shanghai: Year of the Dragon' defies gravity

2012-06-01T00:00:00Z Feats of Fantasy: Navy Pier's run of 'Cirque Shanghai: Year of the Dragon' defies gravityBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

The large metal sphere, containing a speeding line of motorcyclists, called "the Globe of Death" is always a favorite show moment for Cirque Shanghai's summer run at Chicago's Navy Pier.

But Jonathan Sanford, associate producer for the show, created by International Special Attractions Ltd, is convinced this season's stage range of acts offers some deadly competition.

This year's new show called "Cirque Shanghai: Year of the Dragon," which opened this week and runs rain or shine until Sept. 3, includes a towering, swinging double-wheel pendulum called "The Wheel of Destiny" which challenges unharnessed acrobats to balance on it as it looms.

"We always like to include some favorite acts, along with some new surprises," Sanford said.

"Year after year, audiences return and new guests also discover the excitement and pageantry we bring to Navy Pier's Pepsi Skyline Stage."

Sanford describes the 1,500-seat, canopied, open-air theater on Navy Pier as "a great space" for "this year's special show."

"The reason we called this installment 'Cirque Shanghai: Year of the Dragon' is because this really is China's designated 'Year of the Dragon,' " he said.

"So we wanted to create a spectacle for audiences of all ages, featuring these performers direct from China who are leaders in their craft of tumbling, juggling, balancing and other awe-inspiring acts." 

For 2012, there are 12 featured acts ranging from bike balancing and hoop diving to teeterboard, spinning spools and an all-new chair stacking feat.

There are 29 performers showcased in amazing costumes and sets during the 75-minute no intermission show.

China's daredevil motorcycle troupe, "Imperial Thunder," returns with five motorcyclists riding at break-neck speed within this year's steel globe.

"Our goal is edge-of-the-seat entertainment for all ages," Sanford said.

"If you blink, you might miss something."

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