Liu Yan, a mermaid dancer at an aquarium in Beijing, dances among the marine fish. Photo:CFP
Many little girls dream of being a mermaid. Liu Yan is one of a few girls who have made the dream come true.
A mermaid dancer in an aquarium in Bejing, 36-year-old Liu is determined to continue her work as long as she can.
Liu developed a passion for the sea during a childhood visit in her to her aunt living in Dalian, a seaport in Northeast China's Liaoning Province. It was her first sight of the sea, and she was immediately absorbed by its vastness and beauty.
After growing up, she gradually obtained certifications for swimming coach and lifeguard. She also earned CMAS 2 Star Diver, a certificate issued by the World Underwater Federation after testing skills in first aid, CPR and dealing with underwater issues that is recognized all over the world.
During the trainings, she began to learn mermaid dancing. "I was lucky to have close contact with gigantic whale shark and sand tiger shark, which was very impressive," she recalled.
After studying foreign trade and English in college, she worked as an assistant and translator at a foreign-funded firm. Three years later, she quit. "The job was not bad but the amount of pressure was huge. I felt bored and stuck," she said.
In 2012, Liu became the first mermaid of Beijing Pacific Underwater World, a marine life exhibition hall in Haidian district. The dancing with sharks and mermaid show has become most popular among the various offerings the aquarium puts on.
Practicing to overcome oxygen shortage, water pressure and resistance was difficult in the beginning. Even with a slight deviation underwater, she could easily crash with artificial hills, or the glass wall. She had to practice for a month just how to greet the audience.
In her spare time, Liu does physical exercises and yoga to remain energetic and agile.
Her performance as a mermaid has gradually improved, winning her constant applaud and appreciation from the audience.
So far, she has completed 108,000 minutes or 75 whole days of underwater performance.
"I want to be a mermaid for the whole life. I think I can't live without water or aquatic life," Liu noted.
Liu performs underwater. Photo:CFP
Liu refills oxygen tanks. Photo:CFP