Golden Dragon Acrobats will light up Pikes Peak Center stage
Who: Presented by the Imagination Celebration
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday (doors open at 6 p.m. and children can wear their jammies for the kids' activities)
Where: Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Tickets: $22, $12 for children under 13; 520-7469, pikespeakcenter.com
They're athletes, acrobats and contortionists and the gasp-inspiring art form they practice is more than 25 centuries old, going back to early China.
The Golden Dragon Acrobats bring that history with them -- as well as shimmering costumes, bikes and umbrellas -- when they return to the Pikes Peak Center for one performance on Tuesday. The event is sponsored by the Imagination Celebration.
Could this be the ancient-Chinese version of what would become Cirque du Soleil? Production manager Randy Williamson, who was interviewed from the troupe's home base of Plano, Texas, has worked with both shows.
"The Golden Dragon Acrobats are very strong, very good at what they do. This is going to be an amazing evening," Williamson says.
Another strength, he adds, is the way it transitions between the pieces created by choreographer Angela Chang.
Because of the physical demands, many of the performers are young.
"Usually contortionists have a top age limit," Williamson says. "By the time they're 24, they can't bend the way they used to. The guys who do the tumbling -- such as doing forward rolls through hoops -- can go for years. One is 28. He also does a hand-to-hand -- two guys pressing up into handstands. He's the base."
Like so many Chinese gymnasts and acrobats, many in the troupe started training when they were 6 or 7 years old -- or even younger. This is the norm all around the world as well, he says. "I haven't met gymnasts or acrobats who say they started their sports when they were 16."
Williamson refined his staging skills during six years with the Golden Dragon Acrobats, time with Cirque and as technical director with the Joffrey Ballet, "which taught me so much about how the stage should look." He was with the Joffrey the first summer they did their residency in Telluride, where "they had built a stage in a fly fishing factory," he remembers.
Over the past two years, this West Virginia native has been around the world twice with the acrobatic troupe. The best audiences, he says: "United States audiences are wonderful. Sometimes they come thinking they are going to see animals but go away excited about what they have seen. The audiences in Germany are good, too."