African Acrobats International
big-time Kenyan performance group comes to the Heyde
by Betty Nikia
Members of African Acrobats International hail from Kenya and describe their show as “part Cirque du Soleil, part Harlem Globetrotters.” Based in Las Vegas, the group has performed for Walt Disney Parks, the Minnesota Timberwolves halftime show, and even the FOX TV show 30 Seconds to Fame. Since 1999, they have taken their show to more than 30 countries. The team works together like a well-oiled machine with high-energy choreographed gymnastics set to a lively Benga beat, from precariously balanced formations to dance-like routines filled with flips, jumps, and contortions. The performers are highly engaged with the audience and the fast pace helps keep everyone’s attention. The routines illustrate a rich and evolving history of African entertainment traditions, rooted in siricasi – a combination of folkloric dance and acrobatics. Over time, the routines have been shaped by the influence of Arabian traders in Mombassa with their juggling and balancing tricks. The Kenyan performers also incorporate chair-balancing and pole climbing skills from 20th century Chinese technicians. Today, the group shares this unique blend of African rhythms and multicultural “afro-batic” skills at venues all over the world.