Students overseas go head-over-heels in online acrobatic school

The livestreaming acrobatic classes were set up by teachers of Wuqiao county for students, mostly from developing countries, with the aim of promoting acrobatics exchanges.


A teacher and students demonstrate acrobatics through livestream classes on Aug 9. The lessons are widely provided to students of the Hebei Wuqiao Acrobatic Art School. [LIU TIANQI/FOR CHINA DAILY]

August 18, 2022

BEIJING – Online workout videos may be widely popular, but some overseas students are raising the bar by learning acrobatics online through livestream classes.

Forty-five students from Laos and Cambodia recently began mastering skills in tumbling, twisting, spinning, flying, leaping and balancing, with help from teachers in Wuqiao, a county known nationwide for nurturing acrobatic talent in Hebei province.

“Chinese acrobatic movements attract me very much,” said student Thidavone Beua from Laos. “They require precision, and I want to learn that.”

At age 20, she is a performer in an acrobatic troupe in her country. She attended Chinese classes for four times.

“I like performing tricks with diabolos, or doukongzhu, the most,” she said, referring to an acrobatics routine that uses spinning cups. She added that her movements-such as tossing and catching the cups-have improved in the past few days because of the online instruction.

The classes, conducted by the Hebei Wuqiao Acrobatic Art School, began on Aug 8 and will last for three months. Organized by the training center of the Ministry of Commerce, the classes have been held annually since 2002.

They were set up for students, mostly from developing countries, with the aim of promoting acrobatics exchanges, said Duan Yong, head of the school’s international exchange department.

“We have trained more than 500 students from over 40 countries, including Nepal, Kenya and Ethiopia,” Duan said.

He added that before 2021, the students came to China and attended classes in Wuqiao county, where the school is located. But the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the classes. In-person teaching was eliminated and classes were moved online last year. The students, ranging in age from 13 to 30-something, are acrobatics performers in their own countries.

“Overseas students like Beua are very active and enthusiastic. They are good at communicating with teachers about specific techniques,” said teacher Ma Shumin, who has been teaching acrobatics for more than 30 years at the school.

Ma said 28 acrobatic performances will be developed during the three months of training, including diabolos, contortion and aerial skills.

Although the online classes have helped a lot in continuing the lessons during the COVID-19 era, they do not meet the high standards of teachers such as Ma.

“Online teaching makes it difficult for teachers to observe the students’ movements and expressions closely, especially their strength and flexibility,” Ma said, adding acrobatics training demands high standards and great attention to detail.

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