The Guangzhou Acrobatic Troupe, which recruits students from around the country, is arguably China’s best.
He performed with various local troupes in his native Anhui province before going to Guangzhou in 2001. He has undergone everything his mother hoped and feared－success and injuries. While injuries can end a career, the pressure to stand out in such a competitive field pushes performers to take risks.
Yet acrobat Wang Sen, 21, believes the greatest challenge is posed by one's own ambitions.
"Nobody should be blamed for being ambitious," he says.
"But when your job involves doing multiple somersaults on a horizontal pole high above the ground, you've got to make sure that drive or ego, or whatever you call it, doesn't overrule judgment.
"In terms of physical capability, it would usually take at least three years for an acrobat to make a real breakthrough. There's always the next step. Consequently, we learn the essence of perseverance."
But tension is still bound to surface, especially when a big show is approaching, says Zhao, whose five-year partnership with Zhang, which culminated in their television appearance last year, is marked with memorable advancements and equally memorable conflicts.
"We fought vehemently over the slightest flaws we thought might blemish our show. We turned to rehearsal footage a colleague had recorded on his phone for evidence against each other," she says, laughing.