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Online rehearsal continues (July 2021)

Physical rehearsals were well underway at the Shanghai Yue Opera House. After some very important meetings with Dr Ma and Steve Ansell, the choreography was carefully directed and incorporated as a beautiful finale to Dr Ma's script. Rehearsals were filmed, scene by scene in order to show the full story coming together, combining the highly stylised Shanghai Yue Opera you can see in the choreography alongside a more naturalistic, 'Western' style of spoken drama or Huaju

With the greatest of thanks to our esteemed partners at the Shanghai Textile Museum, Leeds Industrial Museum and East China University of Political Science and Law, documentary footage showing numerous historical angles of the experience of working class women in China was continuing to be shown in an online exhibition on the Leeds Industrial Museum that can still be seen here.

The collaboration between these two museums stood as testimony to the shared cultural heritage of working class women in the textile industries across the two countries, and both the tangible and intangible heritages that encapsulated both of their experiences, emphasising the shared histories between Shanghai and Leeds despite the thousands of miles that separate them. For us this stood as further proof of the power of the digital world to connect us, not just in the present, but in our shared pasts, and our hopes for the future.

In a meeting held over WeChat in July attended by Dr Haili Ma, Steve Ansell, Rousang Wang, Chunyi Wu and Morgan Buswell, it was communicated that difficulties faced in the process of creating the project were becoming more apparent. Alongside the time difference, some of the notes given after rehearsals could occasionally be lost in translation.

Addressing this, Steve Ansell emphasised that the end goal of the project was to utilise the varied skills of the participants in order to create a performance that all could be proud of. To counteract the language barrier in understanding the process, Dr Ma and Mr Ansell orchestrated a new plan. They would record themselves performing segments of the performance for Rousang to watch, providing a concrete idea of their vision for her to interpret. Rousang was encouraged to offer her notes, thoughts and criticisms and collaborate in return.

Emphasis was placed on how the project should be a "two-way process", that it is just as as important for the UK partners to know what is working and what is not from the partners in Shanghai as it was for the UK partners to offer their notes in return. Steve Ansell, recognising Rousang's immense skill, status and artistry as a performer, was particularly keen to encourage her to offer her notes and criticisms, as her collaboration is invaluable.

Throughout this period, our likewise esteemed colleagues in Sheffield - Human Studio, were busy at work designing Rousang's "co-star". The digital effects that served to bring the world, both real and symbolic for Rousang's character, act in many ways as the second character throughout the project, and it was important to the project that it be given as prominent a role as Rousang herself. From the view of the Bund from the window of the flat where the action takes place, to the flowers and butterflies that form an essential part of the action, Human Studio designed it all. Numerous meetings took place over the summer between Nick Bax and Abby Hambleton at Human and Dr Haili Ma and Steve Ansell at The University of Leeds in order to ensure that these details did not get left in the background, but did indeed come to share the stage. For details of the development please see our performance development 'In rehearsal' page here.