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Chinese acrobat wows audience at NBA halftime show

China Daily | Updated: 2024-07-02 08:01

TAIYUAN — A video of acrobat Niu Rong's performance at an NBA game has gone viral online recently, garnering widespread attention on major video platforms.

In the video, Niu, dressed in a bright outfit and high heels, performed to the traditional Chinese song Bridal Sedan Chair. She rides a unicycle over two meters high with one foot, expertly kicking a stack of white porcelain bowls onto her head, which drew applause and cheers from the audience.

Known by her stage name "Red Panda", Niu chose the name because red symbolizes China and the panda is the country's treasured national animal, making her a memorable performer to audiences.

Niu is one of the most popular halftime show performers in the NBA, with American media hailing her act as "the best halftime show in basketball". Since her debut in 1993, she has performed for 30 NBA teams, showcasing her high-altitude porcelain bowl-balancing acrobatics for 21 seasons. Her journey began in Shanxi province.

Born into an acrobat family in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi, Niu began practicing acrobatics at an early age. "When I was young, I practiced somersaults and handstands but found that I was not good at them. So I chose to practice unicycle bowl-balancing when I was 7," she recalls.

Niu's NBA debut came the day before Thanksgiving in 1993 when she performed on the Clippers' home court in Los Angeles, California. Her five-minute performance received four standing ovations.

"During the performance, four bowls fell steadily on my head one after another. There was applause almost every time I flipped a bowl. I couldn't believe it," Niu recalls.

Since then, Niu has become a fixture in NBA halftime shows. "She is the most dominant performer in the NBA, and her bowl-balancing technique is even more accurate than Curry's three-pointers," said an NBA head coach, praising Niu.

However, Niu's career has not been without challenges. She once fell from a stool over two meters high, fracturing her arm. "During that time, my father had passed away and I was down for a while. When I tried to go back on stage again, I thought I was ready but I wasn't focused enough," Niu says.

In October 2015, Niu overcame her injury and returned to the NBA court, once again becoming a fan favorite.

Speaking of her hometown Shanxi, Niu says: "I used to go back to Shanxi at least once a year but I haven't had time to go back in recent years. I must make it this summer."

After working overseas for many years, she misses Shanxi's vinegar noodles the most. "When I left Shanxi, it didn't have a professional basketball team. If there is a chance in the future to perform in my hometown, that would be great," Niu adds.


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