Mao’s Last Dancer*****

24 Apr 2010 – Fantastic Dancing

Was first premiered at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival September 2009. If you are into ballet and dance, this is a must. Am not so into ballet but wow! how pleasing to the eyes with such physic and graceful movements on top of a masculine face who could act. Touching and inspiring with wonderful cast of actors and dancers. Would certainly want to watch it again, some years later, even when it is over 2hrs!

Based on the autobiography by LI Cunxin/李存信, a poor village boy was plucked at the age of 11 by Madame Mao’s cultural delegates and sent to Beijing to study ballet. When he was 18, LI was awarded one of the first cultural scholarships to go to America, and subsequently been offered a soloist contract with the Houston Ballet. The cultural exchange to Texas USA saw him being seduced by the freedom in a westerner’s world. That discovery was fueled after realising that his Party has lied to him about America. He started a relationship with an aspiring American dancer, Elizabeth Mackey. They rushed their marriage so that LI could remain in the USA while avoiding defection as he wanted to be able to return to China to visit his family.

But the Party detained him at its Houston Consulate. This caused a 21-hour international incident; American and PRC diplomats debated the issue. LI was eventually allowed to stay, but his citizenship was revoked – he had effectively defected. Cut off from his family, LI continued to dance. He abandon his duties, his parents and his country because of love and freedom, not for fame or money. He’s a man who is torn between two worlds cultural identities.

Currently, LI Cunxin is a stockbroker, living in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and children.

Ballet dancers, like most artists, never make much money, and I was the only wage-earner to support three children, plus I was helping my parents and six brothers in China – LI Cunxin