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‘Cirque Shanghai’s: Dragon’s Thunder’ entertaining for all ages

‘Cirque Shanghai: Dragon’s Thunder’

RECOMMENDED

♦ Through Sept. 2

♦ Navy Pier Pepsi Skyline Stage, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago

♦ Tickets, $15.50-$29.50

♦ (312) 595-7437; navypier.com/cirqueshanghai

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Maps

Updated: July 8, 2013 6:13AM



‘Cirque Shanghai: Dragon’s Thunder” is a circus everyone can feel good about.

The ticket prices are significantly lower than those of Cirque du Soleil, that other unrelated, more lavish and sophisticated production conglomerate.

Those concerned about the use of animals (a la Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey) can rest easy. The only tiger you’ll see at “Cirque Shanghai” is a picture of the big cat staring out at you from a giant red drum.

Made up of a traveling troupe of Chinese artists, “Cirque Shanghai” has been bringing its flips, tricks and heavily bedazzled costumes to Navy Pier since 2006.

If you’ve seen the show before, the latest iteration, “Cirque Shanghai: Dragon’s Thunder,” will look familiar.

The show isn’t stale, though. What continues to sell this family-friendly franchise is the enthusiasm of the young Chinese performers.

Most of the acts end with a vigorous fist-pump or karate chop and an enthusiastic cry of “Hey!” Performers seem as excited as the audience that they pulled off these moves such as the ballerina who balanced en pointe on her partner’s head without falling.

For Chinese circus newbies, each act follows the same basic formula. Performers start with an unbelievable feat of balance, flexibility or daring. Then they up the ante.

A man who catapulted through the top of three stacked rings successfully, say, moved on to hurl through a stack five rings- high in “Hoop Diving.”

A young acrobat flipped high in the air, landing on a narrow ramp called the Chinese Flex Bar. He did the same trick again, only the second time he wore stilts.

On the plus side of things, the show moved quickly and there were a few genuinely funny moments.

“Dragon’s Thunder” dropped the flimsy plot lines of previous “Cirques Shanghai” productions and focused on the acrobatics. With multigenerational appeal and tickets running between $15.50 and $29.50, it’s one of the more affordable family excursions in the city of Chicago.

I did have a few quibbles, though. The show is at the Navy Pier Pepsi Skyline Stage, and the costumes with the sequin Pepsi logo were ham-handed and unnecessary. I also wondered why the guys in the show got most of the high-energy acts. While artistically impressive, the girls’ acts simply weren’t as much fun.

The gender issue, though, was mostly redeemed with the Globe of Death finale. Without giving away the surprise, there’s a genuine girl-power moment that had audience members — boys and girls alike — cheering.

KIDDING AROUND

♦ Learn about the blues at the Blues Kids Foundation Tent from June 7-9 at the Chicago Blues Festival, Grant Park. Run by Chicago bluesman and Columbia College Chicago teacher Fernando Jones, the tent offers student performances and workshops. Admission is free. For more information, visit chicagobluesfestival.us.

♦ The Ravinia Festival presents Ko-Thi Dance Company as part of its Kraft Great Kids Concert series at 11 a.m. June 8. These “cultural ambassadors for art forms of African descent” are based in Milwaukee. Lawn seats are $5; reserved seats are $10. For more information, visit ravinia.org.



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