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The Embroidery Girl

Posted on March 22, 2018

Embroidery Girl Liu Kai Liang

The lavish production The Embroidery Girl offers a rare chance to see a full-scale Chinese dance show in the UK. Inspired by the real stories of two artists, the embroidery masters Shen Shou and Yang Shouyu, the production combines ballet, Chinese folk dance and western stagecraft techniques.

Created in 2011 by choreographer Zhao Ming, The Embroidery Girl is set during the later Qing dynasty, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.Shen Shou (1874–1921) founded the Shen style of embroidery. Married to an artist, she took inspiration from his drawings for her sewing and designs, before putting her 40 years of artistic experience into the Xue Huan Embroidery Bible, the first handbook to record artisanal embroidery methods in detail. Yang Shouyu (1896–1981) invented an embroidery style that mirrored Western oil paintings. She was in love with her cousin Liu Haisu, a painter, and both were heartbroken when his parents arranged a different marriage for him.

Zhao Ming combines elements of both stories in his production for Jiangsu Wuxi Song and Dance Theatre, a large-scale ensemble celebrated for its theatrical and television productions. The music is by Zou Hang, who wrote music for the pianist Lang Lang to play at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It stars Zhang Yashu, a finalist from China’s edition of the television show “So You Think You Can Dance”.

The UK tour opens at Cambridge Corn Exchange on March 27, before touring to G-Live, Guildford, Swansea Grand Theatre, the King’s Theatre, Portsmouth, the Dance House, Manchester, and the Albany Theatre, Coventry. Visit for dates and details.


Picture: A scene from The Embroidery Girl. Photograph: Liu Kai-Liang

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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