After a phenomenally successful debut year last summer at Navy Pier where more than 135, 000 attendees experienced its jaw-dropping ability to seemingly defy gravity, Cirque Shanghai is back again direct from China with an all-new show called “Bai Xi,” which means “100 stunning acts.” Mercifully gone is last year’s Marco Polo narrator but back are plenty of daredevil acts, plate spinners and spectacular air-painting exhibitions with human bodies. This year’s show has more of a martial-arts-meets-outer-space feel to it, and the opening features acrobats attacking the stage and each other from all sides of the air on ropes. This year’s cast is a decidedly younger cast than last year, and some are too young to know how to directly connect with an audience the way last year’s veteran’s were able to do. But their skills are consummate and these acts are devoid of the kind of staunch attention to individualism and ego that characterizes Western acrobatics and dance. These native performers begin mastering their art as toddlers and spend years in pursuit of physical perfection and repetition-until-movements-become-second-nature mastery, which is required for this art form to appear as deceptively simple and easy as they make it seem. (Dennis Polkow)
“Cirque Shanghai: Bai Xi” runs at Navy Pier’s Skyline Stage, 600 East Grand, (312)902-1500, through September 3.