Jungua: Descendents of the Dragon
Written by Sarah K. Inman
Wednesday, 13 August 2008 13:22
Though the average theater-goer will be impressed by anyone who can put her ass on her head, this small cast of multi-talented performers who make up Jungua, Descendents of the Dragon, a multi-disciplined spectacle of martial arts, contortion, and acrobatics now showing at Harrah’s Theater, will amaze anyone, fans of the circus and Ultimate Fighting buffs alike.
Harrah’s theater is rather small, and with the exception of the seats behind the columns, there is not a bad one in the house. The proximity to the stage allows the audience to feel the extreme nature of the performance.
The Shaolin Disciples and the Imperial Acrobats of China balance femininity and masculinity throughout the show. The acts alternate between shouting, flipping shirtless bald monks and demure, bendy contortionists. Each performer showcases an individual skill, and yet blends with the others through costuming.
The props are spare but purely functional. Each chandelier that is brought out during a contortion/balancing act ends up on a different body part of the elegant woman on stage, her head, her feet, her hands, even in her mouth. The pagoda the monks kneel around waiting their turn to flip and kip doubles as the pedestal for the hand balancer.
When it stops raining umbrellas can be manipulated with graceful feet, and swords aren’t just for fighting; they’re sometimes used to prop up a person. An awesome one man whip act may give aspiring urban cowboys bad ideas. The show culminates with a stunningly difficult two-person hand-balancing act.
The audience gasps as the monks summon the necessary chi to smash metal across their skulls, and the ante is upped when a monk rolls out a wheel barrow full of construction-like stuff that will be broken on various body parts. Within the same act, they create a pyramid of humans and nails. The top takes a slab of concrete to the chest while another monk cracks it with a sledge hammer. Whirling aerials, backflips, repeated kips, and break falls, and well practiced, fast-paced katas balance the stunts that are pulled off with deliberation and calm.
In terms of skill level, Jungua is much more spectacular than any of the recent circus-type performances at Beau Rivage and well worth the higher admission. Tickets start at thirty-five dollars. In the age of shows like Jackass, it’s nice to see well practiced, live stunts up close.
Jungua will be featured at Harrah's through August 24.
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