Asia-America Entertainment is a Las Vegas based acrobatics and show producer.Ever since its inception in 2006, the company has made it a mission to introduce Chinese art and culture, through its live performances, to the American audiences.
Some of the audiences’ most favorite performances are the lion dance and Chinese yo-yo.Lion dance, to some extent, is probably the most recognizable Chinese acrobatic performance that represents the traditional Chinese culture and art, because it is always performed at Chinese festivals, cultural events and religious activities. People also see lion dance performed at other important occasions such as business opening events, wedding ceremonies, and greeting and honoring special guests by the Chinese communities.
Chaozheng Jiao, a key performer at Asia-America Entertainment, told us that there are two main forms of the Chinese lion dance, the Northern Lion and the Southern Lion, and that the actors of Asia-America were mainly trained to perform the Northern style lion dance.Chaozheng Jiao, who has several major international awards under his belt, told us that the Chinese Northern Lion Dance is often performed as a pair of male and female lions in the north of China. The Northern lions usually have a gold-painted wooden head, and a shaggy orange and yellow hair with a red bow on its head to indicate a male lion, or a green bow to represent a female.Northern lions resemble Peking’s Fu Dogs, and their movements are lifelike during a performance. In a full program of a lion dance, the stunts would include lifts, jump, rolling, balancing on a tiered platform, balancing on a giant ball, and joyful dance. Chaozheng Jiao, whose achievements include the winning of two golden awards at the prestigious Festival International du Cirque de Monte-Carlo, told us that in order to enhance the theatrical effect, the Asia-America actors often make their lion dance appear as a family, with two large "adult" lions and a pair of small "young lions". Two performers are required to play one adult lion, and a single person would play the young lion. In a family lion dance, a "warrior" character holding an embroidered ball is usually added to lead the lions.
Another popular act of the Asia-America Entertainment is the Chinese yo-yos, usually performed by playful Chinese girls.The yo-yos are traditionally made of Chinese Mao bamboo, and the yo-yos have grooves inset in the rim of the discs.These grooves cause the yo-yos to make a whistling sound when spinning at high speed, and the sound allows the performer to gauge her speed and adjust the yo-yo accordingly.But the bamboo-made yo-yos are easy to break and not convenient for complicated acrobatic tricks on the stage. For professional acrobatic performers, the stage models are now made of plastic for added durability, and the sticks used with the yo-yo are made of durable wood.
Chaozheng Jiao told us that while most of the Chinese acrobats play double-bell yo-yos, Asia-America’s actresses sometimes play a much more difficult variation of the Chinese yo-yo known as the single-bell Chinese yo-yo. The yo-yo consists of only one bell, and creates an uneven weight distribution. This makes a wider variety of tricks possible, including spinning the yo-yo as a top on the floor and recapturing it.
Tina Zhao, president of Asia-America, said that although her acrobatic troupe conducts performing tours in the U.S on a regular basis and commercial success is essential to make her shows sustainable, it is more fulfilling for her personally to see how American audiences, young and old, expressed their deep interest in the Chinese performing arts, and how eager they are to learn more about China and the Chinese culture through these acrobatic performances.Tina Zhao said that while the English term "Chinese circus" is often used to describe Chinese acrobatics, the professional critics categorized the term "circus" as an altogether separate and Western style of show. Elements such as clowns and large animals belong exclusively to the Western circus and the Chinese acrobatics usually integrates other elements with Chinese origin such as Shaolin kung-fu monks, Peking opera characters and the Monkey King, for example.Tina Zhao also said that art directors of Chinese acrobatics have noticed that compared with other performing arts, the Chinese acrobatic shows sometimes lack a main theme to clue the entire performance together.
Chaozheng Jiao told us that after some time of experiment, he began to see some successful orchestration of acrobatics being packaged as a complete theme show. The best example is the acrobatic hit of Panda! currently performed at the Palazzo Casino in Las Vegas.Chaozheng Jiao, who plays a leading role in the show, said that unlike the previous acrobatic performance, Panda! has a storyline.According to the playbill, “this visually stunning show follows the heroic quest of Long Long, a warm and caring panda, on an adventurous mission to rescue his beloved Peacock Princess from the malicious Demon Vulture, who has kidnapped her on their wedding day. In the face of desperation, Long Long seeks counsel from Immortal Old Man, who prepares him for the dangerous mission to save his true love”.