Mao’s Last Dancer

From a desperately poor village in northeast China, at age eleven, Li Cunxin was chosen by Madame Mao’s cultural delegates to be taken from his rural home and brought to Beijing, where he would study ballet. In 1979, the young dancer arrived in Texas as part of a cultural exchange, only to fall in love with America-and with an American woman. Two years later, through a series of events worthy of the most exciting cloak-and-dagger fiction, he defected to the United States, where he quickly became known as one of the greatest ballet dancers in the world. This is his story, told in his own inimitable voice. (
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Mao's Last Dancer

Field of Interest/Specialty: Asia
Posted On: 04/04/2013

A different angle on Mao’s Cultural Revolution and a fascinating look at the two sides of every regime. Cunxin is the typical peasant child in a remote village turned commune under Mao’s new ideals. He is satisfied with his harsh life, as it is the only one he has ever known. His entire future changes when a representative from Madame Mao’s Beijing dance academy visits his school looking for candidates for the academy. Much to his surprise Cunxin is chosen, more for his ability to tolerate pain and sheer stubbornness, rather than any innate talent and moves to study at the Beijing Dance Academy.
Cunxin quickly realizes that he has a real talent for dance and aspires to become the best dancer in the school. He perseveres and practices late into the night to perfect his form.
Eventually, he is chosen to study at the Houston Ballet in America and is amazed at the opportunity and freedom he sees in the United States. When he returns to China, he is anxious for another opportunity to visit the US. However, he must cover his enthusiasm because he is basically property of China. Eventually he is granted a visa to return and study in Houston. It is there that he falls in love and marries an American dancer. His marriage and subsequent refusal to return to China causes an international incident when he is imprisoned in the Chinese Consulate. The affair causes tensions to rise between communist China and the White House and threatens US/China relations.
Eventually, he is allowed to stay in the US, but is denied the opportunity to see his family in China. The marriage ends in divorce several years later, but Cunxin goes on to find international fame and eventually marries again and settles in Australia with his wife and three children.