When you say ‘Chinese culture’, pregnant panda dancing doesn’t immediately spring to mind.
But this was one of the acts that featured in Cultures of China: Festival of Spring, a variety show which celebrated the Chinese year of the monkey.
Members of Portsmouth’s Chinese community and dignitaries from Beijing filled the Kings Theatre in Southsea for the show, which was funded by the Chinese government.
Tan Tianxing, the deputy director of the overseas Chinese affairs office, gave a speech before the show in which he thanked the hospitality of the Lord Mayor, Frank Jonas, and the people of Portsmouth.
He said: ‘We are at a special time when the relationship between England and China is in a very good state, and it’s great to see the Chinese community living in such harmony with the other residents of Portsmouth.’
The line-up featured some of the top performers from China, including The Voice of China winner Lei Zhang who treated the audience to some traditional Chinese folk music.
His fellow finalist Dage Zhao opted for a more international setlist for her performance, which included the Motown record Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.
Dance was also well-represented. Contortionist group Body Soft Tactic’s balancing act was gasp-inducing, and one dancer even ran around her own head while lying on the stage.
Performers Jun Yu and Hongping Su, who have appeared on Chinese state television, wowed the audience with their lifts, and Pedal Technology made juggling an umbrella with your feet look like a walk in the park.
Authentic Chinese acts came by way of the mask-changing performer from the Sichuan region, who came into the stalls and performed his trick right in front of audience members, and an accompanying face-changing puppet.
But the weirdest act by far was the Panda Playing number, where two dancers wearing a conjoined Panda suit gave birth to a panda toy onstage, which was fired out into the crowd for one lucky person to take home.
The show was closed by renowned opera singer Jing Tie, who could have shattered glass with her vibrato during renditions of Chinese anthems.
Members of the Portsmouth Chinese Association, which helped bring the show to the city as part of its international tour, were also among the audience, and came onstage at the end of the night to join the performers.