MERCED -- The acrobatic feats of the New Shanghai Circus fascinated a large audience Thursday evening at the Merced Theatre.
Theatre officials said more than 800 tickets were sold for the show -- one of the largest turnouts for an event since the theatre's reopening last year.
The 25-member troupe features contortionists who gracefully bend themselves into bewildering positions, foot jugglers, kung-fu acrobats and hoop divers.
There are also slack wire performers. Balancing on the wire, performers make airborne flips and turns look easy and riding a unicycle while keeping hula hoops moving simply a matter of concentration.
Tumbling, balancing and juggling are rooted in an art that dates to 700 B.C., according to a press release.
The art developed out of Lunar New Year harvest celebrations, a kind of Chinese Thanksgiving, by village peasants and craftsmen. Chinese acrobats would use household tools and common items found around the farm or workshop. Their skills were passed from generation to generation.
Acrobatic families in China entertained people from every segment of society at ceremonial carnivals and public theaters across the country, the release said.
The New Shanghai Circus was founded in 1951. It became the first Chinese acrobatic troupe to perform on Broadway.
The circus has a year-round company in residence and its own theater in Branson, Mo. The troupe also operates a facility in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.