All I Need is the Air that I Breathe

Seemed panorama of the inside of theNational Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Note the dancers and staff on end of stage with respirators on.

Seemed panorama of the inside of the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Note dancers and staff on end of stage with respirators on.

Arron fooling around with a stage prop in his respirator.

Arron fooling around with a stage prop in his respirator.

Imagine being a professional athlete. That in itself is really a stretch for me; being paid for the awesome things you can accomplish with your physical prowess is just beyond my comprehension. I know they have trainers and if they are really accomplished they have a line up of physical therapists and advisors and also their colleagues to help guide them to perform at their best for as long as possible.

There are always the challenges of what higher elevations ask of a body but what of poor air quality? Beijing made a strong effort before the 2008 Olympics to improve the air quality which resulted in a temporary boost in heart health, only to worsen after the games. Recently, an air quality reading at Beijing’s American embassy showed a PM 2.5 level of 886 micrograms per cubic meter; Beijing’s own municipal monitoring center acknowledged readings in excess of 700 micrograms.

For perspective on that set of figures, consider that the guideline values set by the World Health Organization regard any air with more than 25 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic meter as being of unacceptable quality.

One of Arron's co-workers, warming up before rehearsals in the theater's studio in Beijing.

One of Arron’s co-workers, warming up before rehearsals in the theater’s studio in Beijing.

I was breathing hard during a little cross training today when my core workout was cut short by texts from Arron who was wrapping up is day in Beijing. On tour in China for 3 weeks, American Ballet Theatre has 4 more days in Beijing and they are all, “ready to come home.”

After assuming his mom that he is “pretty good,” his next comment was, “the pollution here is so so terrible.” Arron isn’t ever one to complain nor exaggerate so I knew for him to comment on it made it something massive. He told me how that other than in the theater or hotel room, he wears his respirator all day long. Walking out in the city the air hurts his eyes and they, “get all caked.”

He told me how difficult it is performing full out on the stage. Ballet dancers don’t have the luxery of looking fatigued or double over after they have completed a series of leaps, turns and lefts. They have to look like they are at ease in what ever character they are portraying. Ballet is an art first and foremost but it requires the stamina of an Olympian to perform it at the professional level. My son is one of the best in the world and it is shocking to hear of how difficult it is for them.

The dancers of American Ballet Theatre are world class athletes in top shape. To hear how it effects them makes me try to imagine what terrible effects it is having on anyone in ill health or who has to stay for extended periods of time. The next time I am huffing and puffing with my lungs feeling like they are going to burst from a hard run, I will try to draw on how grateful I am to have clean air to be sucking into my lungs.

National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Dancers putting their respirators up on their foreheads while rehearsing for their performance of Swan Lake tonight.

National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Dancers putting their respirators up on their foreheads while rehearsing for their performance of Swan Lake tonight.

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2 thoughts on “All I Need is the Air that I Breathe

  1. I thought I had it bad where I am (a heavily industrialised town in the North of England) in terms of pollution, but China looks like something else entirely! I’m in awe of professional athletes too, although I often wonder how much the threat of injury plays on their mind – imagine how devastating it would be for a pro to have to retire and return to the monotony of 9 – 5 normal life… I’ll stick to being amateur (not that I have a choice :P).

    • They have all been injured and know that, like any athlete, it is pretty much a young person’s profession. It isn’t easy to make the transition to another job; some go on to teach or go back to school.

      Thanks for reading!

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