If you want to see some photos from Peking Acrobats shows, look here. If you want to see a video with some brief examples of stuff that happens in their shows, watch this:
I loved all the jumping through hoops, and climbing of ribbons without use of hands, and hanging from a wire using only the strength of the backs of the feet while three other men climb on one by one until Foot Guy is supporting all their weight ... but I had some problems with the gender inequalities.
Now, I'm perfectly aware that women can't do everything men can do, physically. It's a rare woman who would be able to hang upside down by her feet and support the weight of three men. But this went beyond that.
The guys did all kinds of athletic stuff: jumping through hoops, lots of tumbling, climbing, etc. They also included a fair amount of comedy here and there in their acts.
The women, on the other hand, mostly danced, posed, and balanced (they balanced themselves on stuff, balanced stuff on themselves, and balanced themselves on themselves). They waved fans around. They waved ribbons around. They waved decorative umbrellas around. They waved their arms around in what were possibly supposed to be alluring ways. The main point seemed to be that they look pretty. Pretty and very very flexible. What more could a guy want, eh?
Dude. Women can do more than look pretty. Women can do more than contort themselves into strange bendy positions and balance precarious towers of things on their foreheads. Women can climb ribbons ... women can jump through hoops ... women can do tumbling ... women can be athletic ... women can move around quickly and vigorously ... women can do comedy. But this troupe had a complete division of labor. Women = pretty. Men = active.
It definitely marred my enjoyment of the show. I really enjoyed the athletic guy parts, but I actually fell asleep at one point during one women's juggling bit that went on for like 10 minutes. Dude ... it's just juggling. We've seen it before. We don't need to see it go on and on. Go climb up and balance on a high stack of chairs and do a handstand supported by only one arm, like the guys do -- then I'll stay awake. And I think a woman could do that.
It was also kinda weird that the women and men performed entirely separately until the very end bit, when everyone was running around on the stage in one big amazing mass of Jackie Channish wonderfulness. The women didn't bother me when they were working with the men -- it was only the women by themselves that bored me to tears and made me feel like my gender was being maligned.
But perhaps this is simply a representation of women's role in Chinese culture in the modern day. That would suck.
Still, the show was incredible, and several times I cried out, "Wow!" while things were happening, and several times I thought, "The human body is simply not supposed to be able to do that." It was great. Sexist, but great.