China’s Breathtaking Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe
The Telegraph has written a lengthy profile of the Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe, which has gained worldwide fame for a signature move which has star Wu Zhengdan dancing on pointe on top of her partner (and husband) Wei Baohua’s head:
If the young performers are pushed hard, that is because they aspire to a tradition and a standard that has no equal, director Li says. As we cross to her office, a group of teenage girls are taking a break from training, but they are still practising, playing roller skate tag around the base’s car-park. One of the girls has a Ripstik caster-board on which she emerges, shooting out at speed from between a pair of tightly parked PLA saloons. How long did it take her to master the Ripstik so completely? ‘Five minutes,’ she says, without a trace of boastfulness, and is gone.
Li admits in private she is happy to see the kids enjoying themselves. When she joined the troupe in 1986 China was a very different place, she says, lighting up the first of several pungent cigarettes. Her charges, who have more opportunities and also more distractions than she ever dreamt of as a young girl, need to be constantly reminded to focus, she says. If she seems hard, then Li reckons she is a puppy-dog compared with the directors of her youth.
‘Today’s teenagers are more independent-minded. They don’t want to work hard, they are lazy and I have to remind them that success will come only if they work hard,’ she says. ‘When I was young the director only ever had to tell us to do something once, and we did it. There were no second reminders. These days, everything is more democratic. The children have “human rights”, which is a good thing, because they need to understand about modern society. It is a positive thing, because it makes them more ambitious.’
See footage of the troupe performing Swan Lake below:
And Wu dancing on top of Wei’s head comes toward the end of this video: