Keeping Our Altitude

As Shen Yun tours around the world, we usually stay in each city only two or three days. There are some exceptions, of course (New York, San Francisco, Sydney, etc.), but on average every group performs in two cities per week, which amounts to about 30 cities and approximately 100 shows per troupe in every five-month season.

This means that as a performer, you must be able to adapt quickly to rapidly changing weather, stage conditions and sizes, even different languages in our emcees’ introductions. But there’s one other important factor that is hard to prepare for—altitude.

Especially as we travel across the U.S., we occasionally perform in cities with high altitudes. According to the United States Army Medical Department, high altitude exposure begins noticeably affecting physical performance around 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) above sea level and becomes more prominent in heights over 7,870 feet (2,400 meters).

Over the years, I’ve performed with Shen Yun in quite a few of these cities. Just this past season, my group (Shen Yun Touring Company) performed in Denver (5,280 ft.), Colorado Springs (6,053 ft.), and Mexico City (7,382 ft.). Fear not though, as the effects are limited to “slight” breathing difficulties due to thinner air, increased sleepiness, and “mild psychological disturbances” that take the form of some groaning before morning dance class.

But in all honesty, it does become very difficult to breathe, especially during the show. Sometimes after the curtain falls for a dance piece, we don’t have the energy to get up immediately—though we have to if we don’t want to be run over by other dancers or a piano. Our woodwind and brass players, as well as the vocal soloists, have to overcome some difficulties as well. No matter how hard it gets though, you put on a smile and get over it as soon as the curtain rises.

I still vividly remember a couple years back (then with Shen Yun International Company) when we performed in Colorado’s Beaver Creek—a beautiful skiing destination 8,080 feet above sea level. The shows were very successful. As I stood there waving during curtain call, as elated as I was exhausted, I couldn’t help but think: Thank goodness this stage was small.

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