When it comes to accomplishing unparalleled athletic feats, no one can dispute the exceptional physical prowess, remarkable precision and no-nonsense attitude displayed by the Chinese team in the 2008 Summer Olympics. While the New Shanghai Circus seems to possess the same superior skills, they do one thing the Chinese Olympians didn't — they smile. And it makes all the difference in the world. If you're lucky enough to nab a ticket (hurry, they're almost sold out), you won't get the feeling that these highly disciplined performers were starved, overtrained or beaten into submission. With Cirque du Soleil flexibility (without the “oooh-there's-a-deep-meaning-behind-this” attitude), these contortionists, acrobats, jugglers, plate spinners, knife throwers and cyclists bring 2,000 years of their country's circus tradition to the stage, performing unimaginable choreography and connecting with the audience. Not only do they make the Chinese Olympians look like petrified wussies, but they actually look like they're having fun.

Sun., Jan. 10, 5 p.m., 2010

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