BURLINGTON The Golden Dragon Acrobats of China made a strong case for being as good or better than the immensely popular French Cirque du Soleil on Friday night at the Flynn Mainstage, doing more stunning acrobatic and contortionist routines with fewer stage props and sets. Broadly different, the styles of the two shows reflect the cultural characteristics that define France and China. While Cirque du Soleil is a sweeping flight of fantasy through a magical realm of fantastic sets, out-of-this-world costumes, and interludes of comedic clowning, the Golden Dragon Acrobats presented a relentless, precise acrobatic and contortionist display that relied on no unnecessary bells and whistles to distract from the raw talent of its performers. The fantastic feats of strength included a man performing rotating hand stands atop a tower of chairs reaching to the theatres ceiling; the mind-bending contortionist routines included positions in which it seemed that a performers head was nearly detached from her body; and the high-flying acrobatics involved bodies flying through raised hoops only to be caught on the other side by their companions and hurled back through the top hoop. Building on an acrobatic tradition dating back 3,000 years, the Golden Dragon Acrobats are widely regarded as the premier Chinese acrobatic troupe in the world today. The acrobatic arts have been an indispensable and well-respected part of the Chinese artistic tradition since the Han Dynasty (221 BC-220 AD), when the leisure street performances of day laborers, who utilized the instruments of their labor as props, began to be accepted and commissioned by the countrys emperors, eventually resulting in the creation of the Hundred Plays. The troupe has toured continuously for 29 years, performing in 65 countries on 5 continents. They received two New York Drama Desk nominations following a six-week stay at the New Victory Theatre on Broadway in New York City, and this year they will return to the New Victory Theatre, becoming the first Chinese acrobatic group to make a return appearance on Broadway. The 2008-2009 touring season will mark the groups 30th anniversary tour in the United States. As this tour will coincide with the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, the troupe hopes that their art will speak to the Games motto of One World, One Dream, by reminding their audiences that, we all belong to the same world, and we share many of the same aspirations and dreams.