Jackie Chan's Long Yun Kung Fu Troupe from Beijing Review - A Cultural Feast for the Senses

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I made my way downtown last weekend, the weekend of Chinese New Year, to catch the performance of Jackie Chan’s Long Yun Kung Fu Troupe at Chicago’s famed Auditorium Theatre.  My experience with kung fu is quite limited, but the idea of melding it with dance and other art forms intrigued me. 

 

You’d have to live under a rock to not recognize Jackie Chan’s name, a legend in the kung fu movie genre for doing his own stunts and combining them with great comedic performances, both in China and the United States.  Seeing his name attached to the company indicated that the program would be tight and super entertaining.  It did not disappoint.

Hard to believe

Direct from Beijing, this engagement marks Jackie Chan’s Long Yun Kung Fu Troupe’s second   appearance in the U.S. since its founding in 2006.  The company presented the U.S. Premiere of its new work 11 Warriors, a relatively short program of a little less than ninety minutes with no intermission.  The evening was divided into five acts: Source, Soul, Master, Softness and Celebration, along with an Epilogue, and told the story of kung fu from its origins to what it is today.  Combined throughout was the martial art form’s connection to the history of Chinese culture told through kung fu, ballet, modern dance and drama.  Each act was accompanied by projections, props, wonderfully effective lighting, and beautiful music.  Most impressive, however, were the eleven men that make up the company.

 

Long Yun is made up of eleven nationally recognized Chinese Kung fu artists working under troupe president, Hu Wei. Under Jackie Chan’s direction, the members of Long Yun studied extensively in all areas of performance – piano, voice, literature, as well as all forms of Chinese kung fu including Tai Chi, Bagua, Long Fist, Wing Chun, and many others. Long Yun focuses on traditional elements of kung fu with folding fans, flag performances, sword performances, and an element of chivalry in addition to modern elements of dance, drama, and technology to create a completely new art form. Their athleticism, artistry, humor, and performance quality were something to behold. 

The Auditorium Theatre

The highlight of the evening was the piece in which all of the performers put on, for lack of a better word, shrugs, made out of a light and airy material, with extremely long sleeves.  The artists would gather the sleeve material in their hands and shoot the sleeves out as they danced, jumped, or flipped through the air.  The effect of this never got old and I was impressed with how many ways the choreographer found to wow the audience. 

 

The second highlight of the night, for me, was the very end of the show in which the company had a kind of dance-off where each member of the ensemble showcased his most unique and impressive skill; the audience ate it up and went home wanting more.  My hope is that the troupe got this message and will be back sooner rather than later.

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