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CHINESE ACROBATS KEEP FAIRGOERS ENTERTAINED.

Byline: David Allen Staff Writer

Contortionist Zhang Chun Yan does a backbend so severe, she can gaze at the back of her ankles.

When Yan shuffles a few steps - walking on her hands and feet, head bobbing just off the floor - she looks like a spider.

Suddenly you feel ashamed that you can barely touch your toes. Yan is one of a troupe of seven Chinese acrobats from Beijing who are amazing and delighting audiences on the Community Stage of the Los Angeles County Fair.

The 20-year-old Yan started training at age 12. She tried several disciplines and found she liked contortion best.

All that bending looks painful. Is it?

``Before, I hurt. Now, it's OK,'' Yan said through an interpreter. ``I start every morning for a couple of hours, stretching.''

Fellow acrobat Wan Yabo, who's only 11, is nearly as limber.

She balances five stacked bowls on her head, then climbs onto the shoulders of Yan. Then she climbs onto his head. After several minutes of maneuvers up there, Yabo does a one-armed handstand on Yan's scalp.

The bowls remain perched on her head, only slipping once.

Another acrobat, Wang He, specializes in low-wire balancing.

It's like a high-wire act, only without the high part. The wire is supported on the stage between two braces, perhaps 8 feet high. When He stands on the wire, it sags like a V, the low point a foot off the stage.

Obviously there's no net. The main danger in falling is death by embarrassment. He, who's 16, doesn't fall, although he gets laughs by pretending he's about to tumble, flashing a broad smile to show his relief that he didn't.

He walks a few steps in each direction. He lies on the wire like it's a hammock. Then he stands, faces the crowd, grabs the wire in each hand like the rope on a swing set, and begins swinging.

The show culminates with group somersaults and a display of strength, as Yan holds three acrobats aloft. Fairgoers may have seen the troupe before, but not these acrobats.

``They rotate members depending on what acts they want. Visas also have a role in it,'' said Jean Hollingshead, the fair's entertainment supervisor.

These young acrobats are on their first tour outside of China. They started in Australia, then hit Alaska for a fair. ``Very cold,' He said.

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Box: LOS ANGELES COUNTY FAIR

Richard Haselrig and Elaine Dalton/Staff Artists
COPYRIGHT 1999 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 15, 1999
Words:408
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