Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Performance and Cultural Industries


Xinli He

MA Performance Design

Please tell us a bit about yourself, your background, where and what you studied previously etc?

I’m Holly (Xinli He) from Canton, China. I started to learn piano when I was six years old, and then, at the age of ten, I began to learn Flute and vocal music as well. After I finished my high school study I chose to pursue Arts Management at Xinghai Conservatory of Music. I have done plenty of internship works in different companies during my undergraduate. I have worked in Guangdong Trade Association for Performance as their secretary and interpreter to attend an international meeting which focused on performing arts. In the same year, recruited by Guangzhou Opera House, I became part of the wigs crew for the musical ‘The Phantom of Opera’. I also worked with Royal Opera House for the opera ‘Carmen’ as a member of costume team in 2014. Moreover, I had the chance to be an Executive Producer of a children drama during my exchange time in Taiwan and being a director of a music concert in Xinghai conservatory of music.

What made you want to apply to your MA course and to Leeds?

I have two reasons for choosing this the Performance Design MA. Firstly, as I mentioned above, ever since my early childhood, performing arts, particularly music, have always been my greatest passion. However, after learning and practising for so many years, the painful truth became increasingly clear to me, that I might not have exactly the aptitude for first class music performance, which was made only worse by my profound stage fright. Still, not ready to give up my long cherished dream, I made up my mind to pursue Arts Management at Xinghai Conservatory of Music after high school graduation, with the hope to make unique contributions to performance design from behind the scene. Now that four years later, I am seeking to enrich my expertise in this area further and this has led me to PCI.

Secondly, after experience working with art organisations and institutions, I strongly feel that Performance Design is a creative and experimental discipline which is just beginning to gain recognition in China. I would like to refine my expertise as well as enrich my experience and the curriculum of the Performance Design MA course is both academic-based and practice-oriented which is attractive to me.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

Contemporary Performance Design practice is often a non-hierarchical and embodied experience, and it is strongly linked to human reaction which cannot be fully expressed just by words. Practice-led methodology is a significant part of the study process. Taking part in different performances in person, watching large quantity of performance videos as well as designing performance by myself, gives me a lot of new perspectives which is the part of the study I enjoy most.

What aspects of the course do/did you enjoy the most?

This course has both practical and theoretical aspects which gives students opportunities to apply the theories in self-directed practice, and also helps emerging new theoretical perspective. Students on this course can work very closely with each other, sharing ideas and exploring new possibilities.


What has been the most surprising thing about coming to Leeds?

There are so many public events throughout the city. In just 3 months, I have already taken part in ‘Light Night’, ‘Compass Live Art Festival’ and several other great performances, which deepen my understanding of the city as well as UK culture and makes me feel more and more at home here.


What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

I have been to ‘the global café’ which is organised by the student union every Monday for international students to make friends. I am also one of the Front of House volunteers for stage@leeds where I can gain some actual work experience and also see great performances at no cost.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

MA Performance Design is a great course which combine practice and academic perfectly. The teachers here are nice, helpful and professional, you won’t be disappointed if you make a decision to study here.

What do you plan to do now you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans? 

I am planning to go back to my hometown and work as a performance designer in a drama company. I have learned a lot of new concepts of performance design during this semester which helps me develop some new ideas that I want to apply to actual performances.

© Copyright Leeds 2018