On their 26th North American tour, the acrobats are originally from China, where becoming a Peking acrobat is an honor, said Cynthia Dike-Hughes, the show’s co-producer.
“Being a Chinese acrobat in China is like being an opera star here in the West,” she said. “It’s an honor in and of itself. And to be selected for the Peking Acrobats is even more of an honor.”
Having traveled the world, Dike-Hughes said the Peking Acrobats have become cultural ambassadors.
“Coming to the West and sharing their ancient culture is something they enjoy doing and take a great deal of pride in,” she said. “It’s a wonderful experience for them.”
Training to become a Peking acrobat begins at age six, said Don Hughes, another co-producer for the acrobats.
“I’ve been to Beijing many times to watch them train; it’s phenomenal,” Hughes said. “They go to school six days a week and acrobatic school right after six days a week. They train just like Olympic athletes do.”
If the young acrobats are noticed by the acrobatic school, Hughes said they can become professional as young as age 10.
“Think about it this way: we have 330 million people in the U.S.,” he said. “There [are] 1.1 billion in China. To stand out, you have to be really, really good. You have to be fantastic.”
The Peking Acrobats perform a show entertaining for audiences of all ages and all nationalities, as language isn’t a barrier.
“Even after 26 years, I still sit at the end of my seat,” he said. “The high chair act, my palms still sweat. It’s one of those shows that appeals to anyone. Doesn’t matter if you’re four years old or a grandparent, it’s excellent.”
Ken Hai, artistic director of the show and a fourth generation Chinese acrobat himself, spoke of how the audience has influenced the show.
“I’ve been doing this for many, many years — 40 years,” he said. “We follow what the audience likes. The audience likes these funny performances.”
He also said the company welcomes suggestion letters to tell them what the audience would like to see.
Tickets are $15-30, with $7 off with a BYU or student ID and $3 off for senior citizens or BYU alumni. Tickets are available at the Fine Arts Ticket Office, (801) 422-4322 or at byuarts.com/tickets.