Cirque Shanghai returns to Navy Pier
Every year, Cirque Shanghai pulls us back in. The show's become an annual right of passage to mark the start of summer in Chicago, and every year, when we think we've seen it all, the team of acrobats and daredevils leaves us in awe and thoroughly entertained.
The new show, Cirque Shanghai: Year of the Dragon opened for a summer-long run at Navy Pier's Skyline Stage last week. And even if you're slightly sickened by the thought of squirming through a crowd of tourists on a hot day with your entire family, do it anyway. (Note: This is something we don't often say about Navy Pier.) It's perfect all-ages fun. The jaw-dropping feats of contortion, juggling (with hands and feet, while bouncing seven balls at once), hoop diving and the like will please everyone from pre-schoolers to grandparents.
What entertains us most is the constant one-upping that runs throughout every act. We like to imagine the thoughts going through the performers' heads: "You think it's impressive that I'm riding this unicycle? Please. Watch me do it on top of this tiny parasol that my friend is twirling." "Why yes, it is challenging to balance on a teetering chair stacked atop six others with performers balancing on them. But what the heck, let's throw in a simultaneous handstand." "It might be scary to watch me run on the outside of this massive gerbil wheel. But now I'm going to do it blindfolded, while jumping rope."
The big highlight of the show each year, though, is the "Globe of Death," a round, steel cage that motorcyclists enter one-by-one to race and turn loops at speeds so high you'll have the urge to cover your eyes. But you'll watch anyway as one, then two, then three, then four and finally—new this year—five (!) brave souls (the last, a woman) subject themselves to the circular insanity. It never fails to impress.
Cirque Shanghai plays Wednesday-Sunday at Navy Pier, rain or shine, through Sept 3. Click here for tickets.