Nine years ago Jackie Chan handpicked 11 young men in China who showed promise as martial artists and trained them in a variety of disciplines, including kung fu, dance and music. The result of all of that hard work is the Long Yun Kung Fu Troupe, which performed at the Logan Center for the Arts in Hyde Park this past Tuesday night and got a standing ovation from the awed crowd. It was timed to coincide with Chinese New Year and is part of the citywide celebration hosted by Choose Chicago.
The show, presented in five acts, stayed true to the roots of Chinese culture in its themes and even costumes while managing to also introduce some contemporary touches, like a giant video screen, and electronic music that ranged from traditional at times to downright Dubstep inspired. What really made the show amazing though was the discipline and precision of the troupe as they cycled through all five acts together.
SOURCE; The performers revealed the animal totems that inspired their fighting style, and the imagery on the screen reflected that as well as the elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth, all of which represented virtues that martial artists strive for in their quest to perfect their forms. The performance was as symbolic as the imagery, with fast paced displays of prowess and mind boggling stunts.
SOUL; Chi and fire featured heavily in this number. The kung fu artists were all dressed in red, carrying lanterns and looking fierce. They combined elements of dance and acrobatics, ricocheting off of one another’s backs in flips and rolls, using their feet to propel an opponent in to the air in astounding ways, and demonstrating the art of flow in all of their fluid movements.
MASTER; In this homage to the kung fu teacher, the action was sometimes sweet, and funny, and sometimes intense, demonstrating the relationship of the teacher to the student. Acting as a guide not just in technique but also in morals, the kung fu instructor came to the aid of his pupils, defending them and converting a few new pupils in the process.
SOFTNESS; Taking a page from the Tao Te Ching’s philosophy, “Be like water” this number illustrated the many ways in which patience, flow and flexibility can benefit a person. Dressed all in white, the performers moved poetically with swords and parasols, sometimes showing their kung fu forms and sometimes moving meditatively.
CELEBRATION; This piece was about release from struggle through insight and the joy that comes from making a breakthrough. The struggle was shown by the artists getting tied up in silks they were attempting to harness. After grappling with their binding properties, each performer wrapped the silks in such a way that they could be flung in great arcs from their arms. It was a joyous and stunning sight.
FIGHTERS; In a powerful and festive finale, the troupe came together in multiple displays of their mastery, lining up at an angle to created optical illusions with their precision moves, at times like a fractal or stop motion film. In the end, each artist stepped up and performed their singular talent, from multiple back flips, to pole climbing and even one fingered push-ups.
The overall effect of 11 Warriors was one of power, balance and calm, with the lush backdrop of Chinese culture augmenting the impressive display of skill and art. A second performance of 11 Warriors will take place on February 13 at 7:30pm. Tickets cost $35 or $25 for students.