Masked against COVID-19, Shanghai's ballet dancers pirouette and plie

Masked against COVID-19, Shanghai's ballet dancers pirouette and plie

Shanghai Ballet dancers wearing masks practise in a dance studio in Shanghai
Shanghai Ballet dancers wearing masks practise in a dance studio in Shanghai, China. (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song)

SHANGHAI: Ten ballet dancers train at a barre, straightening their lithe limbs and standing on their toes to the accompaniment of a classical pianist.

This could be any regular day at the Shanghai Ballet Company - one of China's top troupes, founded in 1979 - except that everyone in the room is wearing a mask due to COVID-19.

The dancers returned this week after the Chinese New Year break, which had been extended because of the outbreak, and some are finding it hard to train while breathing through a mask.

"It's the first time in my life that I've trained with a mask on," lead dancer Wu Husheng said.

"I think I need to improve my physical strength because after a few motions, I found it difficult to breathe."

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Shanghai Ballet dancers wearing masks practise in a dance studio in Shanghai
Shanghai Ballet dancers wearing masks practise in a dance studio in Shanghai. (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song)

A Shanghai Ballet dancer puts on a mask during a practice session at a dance studio in Shanghai, Ch
A Shanghai Ballet dancer puts on a mask during a practice session at a dance studio. (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song)

Wu, 33, says he can normally train for an hour at a time, but he feels breathless in just 20 minutes with the mask on. 

Shanghai, like much of China, is urging people to stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 2,200 and infected over 75,000 on the mainland.

READ: China changes method of counting COVID-19 patients again

Shanghai Ballet dancers wearing masks practise in a dance studio in Shanghai
Shanghai, like much of China, is urging people to stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song)

Shanghai Ballet dancers wearing masks practise in a dance studio in Shanghai
Shanghai Ballet dancers wearing masks practise in a dance studio. (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song)

But head of the Shanghai Ballet, Xin Lili, says that a fortnight of self-quarantine imposed by city authorities may have already left the dancers behind schedule for their April performances - if those are allowed to go ahead.

The ballet troupe has also been depleted as some dancers have been unable to return from their hometowns amid strict travel curbs aimed at containing the coronavirus epidemic.

"We need to start training," Xin said. "We cannot lie at home for a long time. Of course, safety is a top priority. We have a big red blanket at the entrance to the building, and I ask for it to be sterilised every two or three hours."

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Shanghai Ballet dancers wearing masks practise in a dance studio in Shanghai
The ensemble, like other sectors of China's economy, has been hit hard by the epidemic.. (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song)

Shanghai Ballet dancers wearing masks practise in a dance studio in Shanghai
Shanghai Ballet dancers wearing masks practise in a dance studio in Shanghai, China. (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song)

The ensemble, like other sectors of China's economy, has been hit hard by the epidemic.

At least 30 of its performances have been postponed, including some scheduled for Australia and Hong Kong.    

"I do worry about the health of the dancers sometimes," Xin continued. "But we are taking precautions such as ensuring the temperature in their apartment block is kept high enough so that they don't catch a cold."

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Source: Reuters/zl

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