8:00 PM, 2nd March, 2010
Mao’s Last Dancer is the true story of Li Cunxin. The sixth of seven sons born into harsh poverty in rural China, Li grew up worshipping Mao Zedong. When he was eleven Li was chosen to join the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy. Li struggled for years with the demanding conditions imposed by the relentless training regime, until he found his passion for ballet and resolved to be the best dancer he could.
At age 18, Li was chosen to go on a cultural exchange to the Houston Ballet Company, and it is from here the film concentrates on Li’s interaction with Western culture, meeting aspiring dancer Elizabeth Mackey and causing the famous international diplomatic incident that took place in 1981. But the true heart of the film is the magnificent dance performances from Li during his time with the Houston Ballet.
Li is played by three actors during the various stages of his life, but without doubt the most outstanding is Chi Cao. Chi plays Li from the age of 18 and coincidentally also trained at the Beijing Dance Academy. Chi is able to bring the ballet performances to life and shows us why Li was considered one of the best dancers of his day.
Every few years a great dance movie comes along, and Mao’s Last Dancer is definitely in that group. But even if you’re not so keen on dance, come along to see Li’s fascinating experience in igniting a clash between communist China and capitalist America.