Our human bodies are extraordinarily built as functional machines. We walk, we talk, we sit, we stand, we work, we play. Push the limits of our bodies, and we stretch, we bend, we tumble, we run, we leap, we express ourselves in new and dexterous ways.
Focus our whole lives on pushing those limits, and we just might be able to perform a few of the incredible acts of the New Shanghai Circus. The world-renowned acrobats bring their ongoing tour to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center next week with three shows in the Castle Theater.
Evolved over the last 2,000 years, Chinese acrobatics are legendary for the skill and daring inherent in every feat of ability and strength passed down from generation to generation. Young performers typically spend their whole lives in pursuit of their acrobatic goals, living and touring with the troupe from a young age.
Photos courtesy of the Maui Arts & Cultural Center
The Shanghai Circus returns to the MACC’s Castle Theater Monday and Tuesday with its spellbinding blend of traditional art forms and modern magic.
In the New Shanghai Circus, performers range in age from 13 to 45. Ancient circus arts like contortion (one of the oldest recorded forms of acrobatics in China), hoop diving (derived from a tool used during harvest time), juggling and plate spinning (derived from the potter perfecting his craft), balancing, trapeze and group and solo bicycling are interwoven with Chinese cultural elements.
Adding to the spectacle is a whirlwind of dancing and music, colorful costumes and sets.
New Shanghai Circus
* Showtimes are 4 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, and 7 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets are $12, $18 and $23. Applicable fees are added to tickets for all MACC shows, available at the MACC box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.
Another modern phenomenon of movement is the Mark Morris Dance Group, also coming to the Castle Theater next week. Morris is one of the leading choreographers of our time, with a resume that spans genres from ballet to opera to modern dance, paired with famous names from Mikhail Baryshnikov to Yo-Yo Ma.
Morris formed MMDG in New York in 1980, and his company quickly earned an intriguing reputation for its irreverent style - humorous as often as it was serious. "I don't decide ever how people should respond," Morris once told an interviewer. "I want them to watch and listen. That's already a lot to ask."
Morris is also known for his precise attention to music, integrating live musicians into every MMDG show. (That's where cellist Yo-Yo Ma came in, performing Bach during an MMDG performance of "Falling Down Stairs.") That kind of ingenuity has appealed over the years to legendary dancers like Baryshnikov, who formed the White Oak Dance Project with Morris in 1990.
Despite his edgier side, Morris is also a famed classical ballet choreographer, creating works for the San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Boston Ballet among others; and a director and choreographer of opera, working on productions for The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera and The Royal Opera, Covent Garden.
Whether in classic or modern dance, Morris is never afraid to send his dancers into places where the rest of us just can't go - unless we get started right now and really push our limits but for now, why not just sit back and enjoy the professionals?
* Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Jan. 21. Tickets are $12, $30 and $45, available as above.
Playwright Jon Shirota was born in Peahi, Maui, in 1928, the son of Okinawan immigrants. Today, he is one of Hawaii's best-known playwrights, whose work has been produced in Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo, as well as statewide. Shirota brings his latest work, "Voices from Okinawa," to the MACC's McCoy Studio Theater this weekend as part of Kumu Kahua Theater. The play is about Kama Hutchins, an American of Okinawan ancestry who teaches English in Okinawa. Encouraging his students to relate personal stories to the class, Kama finds the tales divulge more than he expected, including revelations about his own cultural heritage. The play contains some mature content.
* Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $22, available as above.
Maui playwright Brian Peoples is moving to Europe in June, but before he goes, he'll present his fifth and final play on Maui: "A Night in Wailea." The production stars Dale Button as Raymond Chamberstein, a lonely actor who once had it all and now has only his fame, wealth and his Wailea estate. When two aspiring actors show up at his door, he takes them in for some fun that turns frightening. Derek Nakagawa directs this adult comedy that also stars Peoples and William Makozak. The show includes a preview of "My Mama Monologues, 2010," read by Pat Masumoto, and will be held at Masumoto's Gallerie Ha at 51 N. Market St. in Wailuku.
* Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Jan. 22, 23, 29 and 30. Tickets are $5. For more information, call 244-3993.
Maui's new Comedy Hui will present an evening of laughs at Lulu's in Lahaina on Friday, Jan. 22. Producer and director Amanda Taulere guides her cast in the Groundlings style of improv, which features fun and challenging theatre games taking suggestions from the audience (think "Whose Line Is It, Anyway?"). Without costumes or sets, the six actors - Tom Althouse, Rachel Deboer, John Ziegler, Alexis Ziegler, Corky Gardner and Chino LaForge - make it up as they go, to hilarious effect. Showtime is 9 p.m.
* Tickets are $15 at the door. For more information, visit the Comedy Hui on Facebook.
The first full semester of performing arts classes begins Monday at MAPA West, the new west side arm of Maui Academy of Performing Arts. The studio is located in Kahana Gateway Shopping Center and offers classes in pre-ballet, jazz, hip-hop, dance and tone, comedy improv and acting for students ages 3 to adult.
Registration is also under way for classes in the MAPA building in Wailuku, offering 75 classes a week in ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, acting and singing. All students registered in dance classes will perform in MAPA's annual "Spring Extravaganza" on May 22 and 23 at the MACC's Castle Theater. To register or for more information, visit www.mauiacademy.org or call 244-8760.
Broadway dancer and associate director/choreographer Tara Young will conduct workshops at MAPA on Jan. 23 and 24 for young performers (ages 7 to 11 and 12-plus) on how to audition for a Broadway musical. The workshop for older students will be an actual audition for the national touring production of "The Little Mermaid." Contact MAPA for more information.