By Jim Callicott
If any Americans have experience the Chinese countryside from a train, it’s David and Robin Venner. It was a long train ride five years ago into Hong Kong where the couple boarded a plane back to the United States with their new daughter Marley.
Marley was just a baby when the Venner’s adopted her and brought her to America to join her new brother Anthony.
Although Seymour has been her home since she arrived in this country, David and Robin want her to have knowledge of her native China.
Robin, a science teacher at Sevier County High School and David, who works in quality assurance at Galbraith in Knoxville, recently brought Marley to see Cirque de Chine at the Smoky Mountain Palace in Sevierville.
“We wanted her to experience Chinese culture,” said Robin. “What we received was much more; it was two hours of unbelievable entertainment. Marley was captivated from the beginning, as we all were.”
The Chinese acrobats are attracted to children and when Zhou Yuan Yuan saw Marley, she managed to spend a few minutes after the show with her and her parents.
“It is good to meet someone from China here in America,” she said, “and to spend time with the little ones is a pleasure for me.”
Zhou Yuan Yuan is the youngest of three sisters and the only one in her family to be have a career as an acrobat.
“My family worried about me when I first became an acrobat but now they are happy for me and excited that I have this opportunity to visit America,” she said.
She performs in several acts at Cirque de Chine including the Chair Stack act, the Pole Toss, and the Opening Ceremony. However, her favorite act to perform is the Drum Kick. As the name implies, the feat involves juggling and tossing an oblong drum with the feet.
“It is difficult to learn,” she said. “The drum fell on my head and all over me when I first started to practice. It is heavy and it hurts.”
Today she has perfected the skill and drum dropping in a thing of the past.
Zhou Yuan Yuan has two wishes while she is here in America.
“I would like to see New York,” she said, “and I would like to visit an American Starbucks.”
New York may be out of the question but there is a Starbucks on nearly every corner. Well, unless Walgreen’s beat them there.
Upon retiring from acrobats, Zhou Yuan Yuan said she would like to venture down a different career path. Whatever route she takes, she should do well. After all, she knows how to march to the beat of a different drummer.
The Asian connection
By Jim Callicott