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  Imperial Circus of China - Saturday, August 18, 2001.
By Tamara Ernst, PAR president

The Imperial Circus of China made its debut in Toledo over the weekend of August 18-19, 2001. There were four shows to be performed in the Stranahan Theater, formally known as The Masonic Temple. I was able to attend only the first performance, a matinee, and was lucky to be seated about 4-5 rows from the stage.

Ticket prices were affordable and the event was advertised in several local publications. The show I attended did not sell out (I'm not sure if any shows did) but the audience was about one quarter full. Prior to purchasing my tickets, I called TicketMaster to ensure that no animals were used in the performances. After a brief hold, the ticket agent assured me that there were not.

The costumes were average but the acts - most of which included juggling, balancing and acrobatics - were fantastic. Perhaps if the circus had been in a different facility with a larger stage, the overall performance would have been better than "good". In addition, the evening shows might have been more spectacular.

After intermission, the stage got dark and all that could be heard was the chirping of a bird. I immediately felt my blood boil because I had attended only under the assumption that the show was in fact "cruelty-free". However, as the lights brightened, the audience came to learn that the chirping was from a sound-impersonator.

There were several short acts of clowns and magicians aimed at children in the audience. Other acts included balancing saucers on long sticks, riding a bike with 13 people on board and numerous trapeze and tumbling acts.

In general, I would commend this circus as a great form of family entertainment. Although it was certainly not of the same caliber as Cirque du Soleil, the Imperial Circus of China was indeed a delightful treat in comparison to the frequent animal circuses that visit Toledo. In fact, another troupe is scheduled to perform in February at the historic Valentine Theater in downtown Toledo; it is called Fu Hsing-National Acrobats of China. I can't wait to go and support this alternative to circuses of cruelty!

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