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Circus School captures the breathtaking feats of a new generation of gymnastic performers-in-training in a centuries-old form of Chinese acrobatics. Given the art form's focus on challenging physical limitations, many Chinese view acrobatics as the quintessential expression of China's strength and power.
The film provides a rare glimpse into one of China's most revered institutions, the Shanghai Circus School, where students aged six to fifteen complete a grueling seven-year program that prepares them to work as professionals. Through exhaustion, injury, and broken bones, the students strive for seamless and precise performances in an unwavering quest to be the best.
The film introduces Xu Lu, a ten-year-old girl who grits her teeth through injury and pain in the struggle to perfect her routine. Thirteen-year-old Cai Yong, coping with a growing weight problem, has difficulties learning a single-handed handstand; his teacher urges him to practice self-control and warns him that his failure will ruin not only his own life, but also those of his teachers and parents. The students' punishing exercises are contrasted with the seamless beauty and precision of their performances to cast a new light on one of China's most ancient traditions.
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