Touristy or not, it was certainly interesting. Considering that we have not done many touristy things in the last year, it was probably long since overdue. We weren't actually allowed to take pictures, but thanks to the tourist nature of this event, all I had to do was find a couple tourist websites to show you what we saw.
We watched a man juggle ten balls while tap dancing up and down stairs. He somehow managed to create what looked like a net in front of him out of whizzing balls all the while tap dancing (picture, but not as crazy as it was). We watched a woman juggle four umbrellas with her toes in the air and two more in her hands (picture). We saw very energetic martial arts like young men scrambling up poles like moneys and leaping through all kinds of hoops. We saw ten girls all riding the same bike (of course while flipping over each other and doing all sorts of strange things). There was also the glass contortionists (picture), the guy riding a bike on his head on the slack wire, the girl who did a balancing act of holding herself up with one arm for about five minutes on a 1.5m wobbly stand (again doing crazy moves all the while) and much much more.
The Beijing bus system really likes playing videos of these types of acts. When riding the bus it is just annoying to watch people do things like that with apparent ease and a large fake smile plastered on their face. But live and very close to the stage, it really was something to behold. We could see the shakiness of overly exerted limbs, the slight (but well hidden) look of strained faces, the sway for balance that was quickly caught and corrected. I appreciated all those little glimpses of humanity. It made the show more interesting and physically challenging than watching a flawless and seemingly effortless performance.
The boys were quite excited. However, half way through the show, it occurred to me what sort of influence watching 10 people flip around on one moving bicycle might have a on a four year old boy (who is, incidentally, also learning to ride his bike). Ari was excitedly grabbing my arm and saying "Look Mommy! They are all on the same bike!". It occurred to me that it might be appropriate to initiate a little discussion about how long it had taken those performers to learn how to do those things. Searching for a frame of reference that he would understand, I told him that it had taken them even longer to learn to do that then it would take him to grow up. He loves talking about how long it will take him to grow up.
However, instead of taking the take home message that I intended, he drew this conclusion... "If it took them that long, then you must be able to do that Mommy!" No, no, no son, mommy can't do that. "Oh well then Papa must be able to do that!" At this everyone shared a chuckle, saying again, "No Ari, even Papa can't do that." At this he was really bewildered that even someone as "old" as Papa couldn't do it. After that he came to the solid conclusion that any one over the age of 50 MUST be able to do what those acrobats did. Using that logic, the best acrobats are those who are 80 years old or more!
On a final note: Yesterday, Ari came to me and said, "Mommy, my tongue is really tired. I've been talking ever since you picked me up from school!" To which Mother responded wisely, "Rest my boy, rest!"