On January 21st and 22nd, the Fred Kavli Theatre at the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks, Calif., hosted an amazingly acrobatic troupe of an elite caliber that places them in the same echelon as Cirque du Soleil.
They are collectively called Cirque D’Or. And while it may seem like excessively high praise, the cast of roughly 30 Chinese performers, 90 percent of whom are under 18 years of age, can’t be given enough credit for their top-notch agility, flexibility, impeccable timing, and ability to entertain with skillful zeal.
The two-hour show (including intermission) in some ways pays homage to their Asian heritage, especially during the beginning sequence when a male performer dressed in a dragon costume circles the stage on his segway. What follows then are carefully managed acts that underscore the unlimited physical potential of human feats, some of which strike the utmost awe in the observer, as the impossible becomes tangible reality before one’s very eyes.
Immediately, one cannot help but feel astounding incredulity upon seeing a group of female acrobats no older than 16 showing off fantastic precision with their capacity to pliably bend their legs over their heads and on the floor in a spider-like position. This is in addition to an inspiring demonstration of ballet mastery whereupon they stand on pointe upon the shoulders of another – an achievement that takes innumerable hours of practice.
Another display of otherworldly accuracy and body control occurs when a group of young women juggle cylindrical and conga shaped drums using only their feet, peddling as they would a bicycle (more on this later), except upside down with their backs resting on the floor. They’d kick the drums to each other, contorting their bodies mid-move, before continuing the spectacle without a single mistake.
Of course, members of Cirque D’Or are adept at incorporating poetic elements into their routine, and therefore presenting their physical talent like an art piece. The “Silk Dance,” which involves a man and woman twisting in the air via the assistance of only hanging drapery (and complicated knots), spotlights the fluid tranquility of the elaborately coordinated movements. Nonetheless, when the man catches his female accomplice with his legs, or when she is spinning like a top, the audience still gasps because of the inherent danger at stake.
Even more so, there is a juggling hat routine that evokes not only wonder, but uproarious laughter from the audience. Rows of performers juggle their own cowboy hats, and the headgear of their peers, in every direction and between their legs, while shuffling their feet, dancing, and moving at light speed. The latter quality is especially exemplified during moments when the acrobats must reclaim their airborne hats from one side of the stage to the other in a mere second.
However, the most notable junctures of the show are the seemingly perilous stunts. One example of this highlights the troupe’s stuntmen, who take turns soaring through an erected stack of fragile steel rings, flipping and diving headfirst through them. In one example, a performer does what is reminiscent of the Air Jordan mid-air pose, barely escaping the graze of the ring, and saluting the crowd when the stunt is successfully pulled off.
In another instance, during a human juggling routine, young men, who are in a seated position, are being catapulted off the legs of their partners (who are lying on their backs), only to somersault and land in a seated position on the legs of another partner, culminating in a succession of whirling dervish dares. Sometimes a spotter would be needed, but, regardless, the moves would be carried out to fruition with a terrific wherewithal of body awareness.
Matching the intensity of the human juggling was a solo act involving an adolescent girl, who impressively does a handstand atop several piled-on chairs and stacked blocks, to boot. With beautiful posture and form, the performer elicits amazement and fear for what would happen if the exceedingly slim margin of error were to be trifled with.
Appropriately, as with any circus-type production, the show ends with its best act, somehow exceeding expectations that are ostensibly unreachable and superhumanly lofty. As the crowd sits with bated breath, a group of young women ride their bicycles concentrically around the stage before standing on their seats, as their bikes continue to drive unattended. Hopping from one bike to another, or hanging on the undercarriage of the two-wheelers as they continue their momentum, the act reaches a clap-worthy crescendo when about twenty performers clump themselves together on only one bicycle. This visual is so grand and uncanny that it compels one to doubt the eyes which afford such a sight.
Overall, Cirque D’Or is not only a welcome surprise in the world of acrobatics, but it delivers on a level that enthusiastically challenges the capacity of what human beings are physically capable of.
For tickets to a future Cirque D’Or show, please visit
In addition, for information about future events at Thousand Oaks’ Civic Arts Plaza, please visit