Walking down the streets of Denver the day after we arrived, I suddenly had to pause because I couldn’t breathe properly. And then I continued as usual and didn't think much of it.
On stage later at the Buell Theatre, I also noticed moments of unexpected breathlessness, and found the first show to be a bit of a struggle, especially for the more demanding pieces. I didn’t think much of it. “Maybe it’s just fatigue from all the traveling we’ve been up to?”
The next day, we took time to drive up to the Red Rocks Amphitheater for some sightseeing. As I walked up a slightly steep path, winding amidst sloped rock formations, gazing at frosty mountains in the distance, the picturesque moment was suddenly interrupted–again I couldn’t catch my breath. “Man! Is my fitness level really this low now?”
Then I noticed that one of my friends was also puffing and panting. This was much to the amusement of our dance teacher, who looked back while pointing and laughing at the two supposedly fit dancers struggling to walk like a pair of old oxen climbing the Himalayas.
Despite the surprisingly arduous climb, the excursion was worth the effort. For a dancer on tour, it sometimes feels like home is a triad of indoor locations: bus, hotel, theatre. The crisp open-air amphitheater was a refreshing change.
I was also eager to check out the sound there—said to be some of the best natural acoustics in the world. The theater is surrounded by walls of the inimitable red rocks, and sound thereby resonates from them without the need for a sound system. I don’t think the theater’s stage would fit a show like ours with the large dance formations and animated backdrops, but it was perfect for singing.
One after another, our soloists seized the opportunity to sing, while others climbed past the highest benches to draw in the best view of everything or sat in one of the 9.450 audience seats. As sopranos Geng Haolan and Huang Biru, tenors Yuan Qu and Huan Xing burst into soaring arias, other tourists turned around, sat down to listen, and waited patiently for the end of each song before rewarding them with warm applause. These singers, clearly, had plenty of air.
But, being Australian and not familiar with American geography, I only later learned that the altitude was almost exactly one mile above sea level. I also read that those who normally run 10 miles a day are content running six in Denver, that many accomplished athletes have trouble performing to their usual standards here due to the thin air, but that baseballs fly much further here when hit.
Thinking back about our performances there, I’m amazed how all the dancers coped—except for a little extra huffing and puffing, everything was perfectly normal!
Despite Denver’s natural beauty and nice performing arts center, it’s nice to now be in DC, where I can get as much oxygen as possible when dancing.
At any rate, I won't forget the “rare” experience I had in Denver.