Our Cultural Exchange -and It's All about Fun; 'Acrobatics Doesn't Recognise Boundaries. You Can Enjoy the Circus Whatever Your Race, Religion or Politics.' That Is the Philosophy Which the Chinese State Circus Has Brought to Solihull, as Campbell Docherty Discovered

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Byline: Campbell Docherty

It is a sunny day outside the Big Top but the activity inside is even more dazzling. Lion dancers in gold and red, diminutive Chinese girls throwing elegant shapes in the ring.

'A Chinese ambassador once told me that circus people were the real ambassadors,' said Tian Run Min, the Chinese State Circus's artistic adviser.

The circus has pitched in Solihull's Tudor Grange Park for the latest shows in a schedule that, it is claimed, stretches back to 128,000,000 performances over 2,500 years of history.

It only became the State Circus after the creation of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

It became a vehicle for cultural exchange, first within Eastern Europe and Russia and then in the West as China slowly forged diplomatic relations.

Mr Tian is a writer from Bejing who has published two books on Chinese circuses and is touring with this troupe as artistic adviser to help hone the show to British audience tastes.

'There are about 28 artists and they are aged between 16 and about 25 and they are thrilled by the reception they get in Britain,' he said.

'Maybe it is because their work is more exotic and they haven't seen these types of performances before but the artists say the audiences are much warmer than in China.'

Troupes from different provinces comprise the Chinese State Circus, but this particular one hails from the port city of Tianjin or 'the diamond of the Bohai Gulf' as it is known.

From the 19th Century, Tianjin became the cultural and entertainment centre of China due to its geographical position between the Northern and Southern provinces and its position as a hub for international commerce. …