Group contortion? (Don’t) try it at home.
Image: Courtesy Shanghai Circus

‘Ohana / Just when you thought Cirque du Soleil was so 2012, there’s a new circus rolling into town. The New Shanghai Circus may be smaller in comparison than the internationally touring Cirque, but the troupe of 30 Shanghai performers promises a show that’s just as exciting and death-defying. (And a whole lot less French-Canadian.)

Hailing from China by way of Branson, Missouri, the New Shanghai Circus takes that first word in their name seriously. Although they come to Honolulu every year, the company reinvents itself each return with a different troupe and fresh, vibrant costumes and stunts, touting that if it’s humanly possible, they can do it, and if it’s not, they’ll still do it. Dancers, acrobats and balancing artists will perform such beautiful-to-imagine acts as plate-spinning and group contortion.

China has long been known for its elite gymnasts, as many of them are discovered as children and, somewhat controversially, trained intensively, daily, until they meet high standards.

There are more than 2,000 years of history behind the Shanghai Circus, as Chinese acrobatics originated from annual village harvest celebrations by farmers and village craftsmen during the Han Dynasty (which might give those plate-spinners a little more context: Their originators were probably potters with a whole lot of spare time).

It’s a family-friendly freak show that promises to delight, as much as it promises gasps; anybody with a knack to bend and stretch will want to run off and join this circus.

Hawaii Theatre, 1130 Bethel St., Fri., 1/18, 7:30pm, Sat., 1/19 and Sun., 1/20, 2:30pm and 7:30pm, $10–$45, [hawaiitheatre.com], 528-0506