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Posted on Jul 19, 2011 | 0 comments

Cirque Shanghai Extreme – A firsthand experience

Taking in the magnificently breathtaking show on Navy Pier’s Pepsi Skyline Stage a night well spent

By Phasha Spencer

What started out as a mediocre day quickly turned into a day to remember when I witnessed Cirque Shanghai Extreme at the Navy Pier’s Pepsi Skyline Stage. This amazing show took my breath away, as some of China’s finest daredevil performers took tumbling, juggling and balancing to the ultimate level. Not only was it an unforgettable experience, but it was a privilege to get a taste of traditional (and exotic) Asian culture while watching.

This show truly lived up to its name, extreme; and it totally exceeded my expectations. I knew that I would see special stunts, lifts and creatively unusual performances, but these feats were unparalleled. This talented group of performers definitely kept my full attention.

Huge gasps, coupled with loud cheers and screams, filled the arena, as each performance became more and more thrilling leading up to the finale. Cirque Shanghai Extreme was an entire movement, and for 90 minutes, the entire audience was captivated by what they were seeing.

Some of my favorite stunts were the meteor cube and hoop diving. Can you imagine diving through a hoop with textbook precision and without it dropping, and then landing on a mat in just enough time before the person behind you jumps through the same hoop? Their timing couldn’t be more perfect. The skill, stamina and technique it takes to perfect each feat is something these performers have been training to do for months, maybe years.

During the meteor cube feat, I remember the performer spinning a giant cube at a tremendous speed with his bare hands. “I wonder how he wasn’t dizzy,” one person seated in the same row as me said aloud. It was one of those moments when you tell yourself you can’t watch, because you think it might drop, but no matter how far to the edge of your seat you slide, you just can’t take your eyes away. The entire show had that affect on me.

The motorcycle on a high wire, and the ever-popular “imperial thunder,” both made the crowd erupt. Suspended above me on a high wire were three performers balancing on a motorcycle. Once again, I couldn’t take my eyes off of what was happening. And later, to see motorcyclists driving inside of a large, steel globe was as extreme as it gets. First one, then two, then three performers all inside the globe at the same time. Absolutely exhilarating. I grabbed my friend’s arm and proclaimed, “Oh my goodness, if they get to four, I’m going to lose it.” Not a minute later, the fourth motorcyclist drives out to the front of the stage. “Yeah,” my friend said, with a prideful fist pump in the air.

Cirque Shanghai Extreme was exciting and stimulating to say the least. I can say with certainty that from now until Labor Day, as this show carries on, all who attend will surely be just as moved as I was. “You’ve changed my life,” said my friend Sean, who attended the show with me. And I knew exactly what he meant. He was floored and so happy to have witnessed it all. And I’d have to agree. Cirque Shanghai Extreme will stay in my personal memory bank for many years to come.

Cirque Shanghai Extreme is playing through Sept. 5 at Navy Pier’s Pepsi Skyline Stage. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or the Navy Pier box office. Call 1-800-745-3000 or visit for more information.