The Greatest Shows in China

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Chinese show theatres promise entry into another world: a world of fascination and fantasy with which they enchant their audiences.

The shows tell of fairytales, stories and legends set in exotic lands and featuring themes of love, fantasy creatures and fighting.

In contrast to regular theatres, show theatres are planned around a stage show. Here creative minds can give their imagination free rein. Standard theatres are designed for continuous changes in the programme, sometimes multiple times per day. In a show theatre, on the other hand, one show is performed which runs for several years, and for which no conversions are necessary between performances. Since many solutions first have to be invented and developed, the requirements for these shows are particularly challenging from a technical point of view. Here you can read about three of these theatres, for which Waagner Biro Stage Systems has developed individual solutions:


Don’t fall in the water! 

The Dai Show Theater in Xishuangbanna

The Dai Show pays tribute to a world in which the Dai people lived in harmony with nature. A small boy who is cast out into the jungle discovers a strange new world with huge butterflies, flower girls and peculiar cockroaches, all of which he gets to know and love.

The show was conceived as a water acrobatics show which sets new standards of artistic and technical performance. The planning of the entire technical stage equipment was executed by Auerbach-Pollock-Friedlander. In addition to the exceptional stage equipment concept, particular focus was placed on the architecture, which was created by Stufish Entertainment Architects. The building structure is reminiscent of a geometric pattern, which is inspired by the leaves of the local palm trees and which also integrates Dai-style architecture.

The structure of the building was inspired by local palm trees.

The audience of up to 1,183 people are seated around a stage measuring 1,400 m2, which is subdivided into three sections. In the centre of the stage is a 14 metre-wide water tank with an 8 metre-wide pool plug which can be lowered by up to 5.5 metres. The acrobats can even dive into this pool from a height of 15 metres without putting themselves at risk. The stage has been designed so that the water can flood the areas separately, and the entire performance pool can be filled within 45 seconds and emptied in only 20 seconds.

In this way, the pool can be used together with the adjacent central stage as a wet or dry area.

To ensure the safety of the stage and to offer the operators a  maximum of flexibility, the entire stage is integrated into the C⋅A⋅T control. Waagner Biro Stage Systems also supplied the entire upper stage machinery, including acrobatic winches, heavy-duty winches and chain hoists.

One of the special features in the upper machinery are the acrobatic winches and motorized tensions sheaves. Acrobatic winches allow a performer or scenic piece a three-dimensional flight through the room by connecting multiple acrobatic winch lines to a single connection point where the acrobat and hanger are attached. Each acrobatic winch has its own synchronized motorized tension sheave, removing the need for weights by creating constant pressure on the performer flying line and reducing slack in the line.

All performer flights are programmed using C⋅A⋅T Profile Editor and the C⋅A⋅T control system to ensure the safety of the performers and exact repeatability of flights. C⋅A⋅T Profile Editor allows the programmer to program, see, and test the flight path in a virtual space before the performer ever gets attached. Once the flight is to the programmer´s liking, it is sent over the C⋅A⋅T control system to be tested in real life.

The C⋅A⋅T control system monitors, regulates, and synchronizes all motors during very complex and fast moving flights while providing a multi-level warning and safety system. The system monitoring creates a safe stop in case of an emergency and prevents the movement of other machines if one of the connected machines has an issue ensuring a safe flight.

Beauty conquers a kingdom

The Wuxi Taihu Show Theatre in Wuxi

The show “SPLENDOR” is performed in a most unusual new construction which can already be seen from afar. The architecture of this building was inspired by the largest bamboo forest in China, which is located nearby.

The 60 minute show combines music, dance, comedy, martial arts, acrobatics and stunts. As legend has it, Xi Shi, one of the legendary beauties of China  – helped – to bring about the downfall of a kingdom in the year 500 BC. Over the course of the performance, the gentle, naive young woman transforms into a strong and independent heroine. The audience is transported by her story into the past, and immersed in a war between two kingdoms.

This unique theatre featuring 2,000 seats was designed by Steven Chilton Architects and harbours the permanent show by Franco Dragone. Here, too, the concept design was created by Auerbach Pollock Friedlander.

For the Wuxi Taihu Show Theater, Waagner Biro Stage Systems refined the acrobatic winch as it was designed for the similarly built Dai Show Theater. In contrast to other winches that use steel ropes, a high-strength synthetic rope is used here in combination with a motorized exit pulley (Motorized Tension Sheave). This guarantees that the cable remains tensioned in spite of high travel speeds and low loads. In this way, the acrobats can fly safely through the air with an acceleration of up to 4 metres per second. Another important advantage of plastic ropes is that they are electrically non-conductive. This is particularly important in water theaters in order to avoid exposing acrobats to the risk of electric shock.

In the thick of the action

The Hangzhou Xintiandi Group Sun Theatre in Hangzhou

“X: The Land of Fantasy” is the story of a hero and a heroine who try to reinstate peace between the old “Petra” and “Aria” kingdoms. The harmony between these kingdoms had been destroyed centuries ago due to a broken seal which represents a Yin-Yang crest with a dragon and a phoenix. A wise elder, “The Watcher”, tells the legend of the two protagonists, who are challenged by many dangers over the course of the evening, and who have to go up against seemingly unbeatable forces.

The special feature of this theatre, planned by Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, is that the audience itself is integrated into this Cirque du Soleil show. They are divided into two groups, each of which represents one of the kingdoms. Just under 1,500 spectators are seated on two round seating wagons placed on opposite sides, which turn during the performance and move with the show whilst the actors position themselves on and in front of the stage. This gives the audience the feeling of being in the thick of the action.

A revolving stage with fixed installed, graduated rows of seating with a capacity of 720 seats is integrated into each seating wagon. They can turn 360 degrees in total whilst simultaneously moving. Such movements permit a multitude of creative possibilities and allow spectators to, immerse themselves into new and changing worlds. The audience is able to observe the show from different perspectives depending on the position and movement of the wagon.

And it is precisely this flexibility in the position of the auditorium that is a major challenge for the security concept. Every smallest detail had to be considered and planned – from regulating the flow of spectators to the locking concept of the doors.

Since the auditorium is very large, there are correspondingly many entrance doors for the audience. The hangar is 101 m long, 53 m wide and 23 m high – even a large aeroplane would fit into it. All doors must be locked during the show when the seated wagons are in motion. If a door were unlocked while the seating wagon was not in front of it, a person entering would fall 15 m into the depth.

In addition to the installation of the seating wagons, the scope of delivery also encompassed the door locking systems. The wagons have to transmit their position detection and the signals from each door (whether locked or open) to the central controller. This regulates the interaction between the respective wagon and door. At the same time, it must be ensured that the doors open reliably in case of emergency.

Each show theater always presents a new challenge. That is why we at Waagner Biro Stage Systems are all the happier to be regularly involved in such theaters because it advances the entire stage technology. And this urge to find better and better solutions is what Waager Biro Stage Systems is for.

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