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Published: Friday, 3/18/2005

Golden Dragon Acrobats achieve delicate balance of athleticism, entertainment

The show opens with a phenomenal display of dexterity and balance.

A young woman balances towers of water-filled glasses on each foot, each hand, and her forehead, then moves around without spilling the glasses.

With athleticism, precision, and grace, the Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats perform a dozen colorful and entertaining acts tonight in the River Raisin Centre for the Arts.

The two-hour show is full of daring, mind-boggling, and beautifully choreographed acts by 21 performers whose ages range from 15 to 30s. An amazing feat is done by a young man who builds a 30-foot tower of chairs; at the top, he does a handstand, said Bill Fegan, who has managed the troupe's U.S. tours for 26 years.

Troupe owners are Danny Chang, an acrobat, and Angela Chang, a dancer-choreographer, who live in Plano, Texas. Danny Chang travels to China to audition acts, said Fegan, and made major changes in June with the addition of six new acts.

In China, acrobats start training at about age 8 or 9, Fegan said. At first, they learn to walk on their hands and then to balance items of various sizes and weights. Girls often learn contortion.

For centuries, acrobatics have flourished in China, even in farmhouses in the winter as family entertainment, Fegan said. "That's why they used plates and tables and chairs," he said.

The Golden Dragons remain in the United States year-round, but the lineup changes each year, he said. They are not affiliated with the National Acrobats of Taiwan, who performed Tuesday in Toledo.

Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats perform at 8 tonight in the River Raisin Centre for the Arts, 114 South Monroe St. in downtown Monroe. Tickets are $24 for adults; $22 for seniors, and $12 for students. Information: 734-242-7722 or www.riverraisincentre.org.

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