not ringling bros.

This Circus Tells the Story of Taiwan

Formosa Circus Art brings a Taiwanese twist on what you might expect at the circus.

By Holly Beretto August 23, 2019

The ancient and the modern come together for an evening of history and culture in what’s billed as a “once-in-a-lifetime musical circus art experience” at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Taiwan’s Formosa Circus takes to the Hermann Park stage for an evening of acrobatics, music, and performance art.

“This is the U.S. premiere of Formosa Circus and the only stop on the United States in 2019,” says Cissy Segall Davis, Miller Outdoor Theatre’s managing director.

The theater worked closely with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office to bring the 16-member troupe to Houston. Earlier this summer, the circus went on a four-date tour of India and Indonesia, where the Jakarta Post called their performance “dazzling.” Davis says the performance meshes with MOT’s mission to bring a broad spectrum of performing and cultural arts to the city. The circus is an embodiment of the island’s history, from ancient ancestors on through the present, exploring the country’s cultural influences.

“You’ll see very traditional Asian acrobatic acts,” says Davis, who recognizes that when people hear “circus” they might think of Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus. “Asian acrobatics are similar to Cirque du Soleil, but there is no big top. This is all performed on our stage.” 

The evening has multiple parts. “Songs of the Land” explores the broad history of Taiwan. Formosa Circus uses flags, martial arts, and dance to tell the epic story of the country. Interwoven into the performance are handstands, rings, cubes, and diablos (Chinese yo-yos). Later, a glass orbs performance is set to festive Chinese lanterns, which symbolize prayers for blessings. Formosa also uses Taiwanese songs from across the centuries to tell the stories of the island. “Seeing Taiwan,” “Taiwanese Giants,” “Turning Points of Taiwan” and “Embracing Taiwan” weave together style of contemporary circus arts to further the storytelling.

The contemporary performance looks to showcase Taiwan’s cultural diversity and its own immigrant culture. Because of the island’s location, people from across Asia migrated there over the centuries. The dances and music in Formosa Circus’ performances highlight those experiences, to “interpret the many faces of Taiwan,” according to a statement from the circus.

Founded in 2011, Formosa has since staged performances in nearly two dozen countries around the world. From the outset, the group incorporated multiple genres to tell its stories. The acrobatics, martial arts, and other elements of the show are specific Taiwanese interpretations, used throughout Taiwan’s history to share its culture with its people. Since the beginning, it’s been hailed not only for its stunning visuals, but also for the sheer joy the performers exude, embodying the group’s mission to bring the friendship of Taiwan to others around the world.

Following the Saturday performance, there is a talkback with the artists.

August 23–24. Free. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Dr. 281-373-3386. More info at

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