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Mao's Last Dancer (2010)

aka Mao's Last Dancer


Directed By: 
Written By: 
Details: 117 mins · English, Chinese · PG (USA)


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Facinating story of a chinese dancer from little boy to an adult who defects to America.

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No_movie_poster Li Cunxin - adult
No_movie_poster Li Cunxin - teenage
No_movie_poster Li Cunxin - boy
Small Niang
No_movie_poster Dia
Small Ben Stevenson
No_movie_poster Elizabeth Mackey
Small Charles Foster
Small Judge Woodrow Seals
No_movie_poster Mary McKendry
No_movie_poster Lori
No_movie_poster Bobby Cordner
No_movie_poster Dilworth
Small Mason
Small Cynthia Dodds
Small Dilworth
No_movie_poster Dia


No_movie_poster Bruce Beresford Director
No_movie_poster Jane Scott Production
No_movie_poster Jan Sardi Writer
No_movie_poster Mark Warner Editing
No_movie_poster Li Cunxin Autobiography




In the era of the Mao's Cultural Revolution, 11-year-old Chinese boy Li Cunxin resides in a rural village commune in Shandong Province, destined to labour in the fields. As often occurred in those times, government officials fanning out across the nation seeking young candidates for centralized training arrive at this school. At first bypassed but selected after a plea by his teacher during the school visit, Li seems bewildered although piqued by the gruff preliminary inspection screening at the provincial capital city of Qingdao. Forwarded to a Beijing audition for a place in Madame Mao's Dance Academy, he is admitted for ballet training based on a series of physique and flexibility examinations.

Years of arduous training follow, Li surpassing his initial lukewarm interest and mediocre performance after inspiration from senior teacher Chan (whose advocacy of classical Russian ballet as opposed to the politically aimed, physically strident form required by Madame Mao leads to the teacher's apparent banishment). Later during the course of a groundbreaking cultural visit to China, American-based English ballet director Ben Stevenson, impressed by Li's standout talent, seeks him as an exchange student at his the Houston Ballet. Li's determined courage garners a formerly disparaging teacher to influence the Academy allow him the opportunity for a three-month stay in the United States.

Li's encounters with US life cause questioning of the Chinese Communist Party dictates upon which he has been raised, and he begins a relationship with an aspiring American dancer, Elizabeth Mackey. Quickly attracting the attention of the local ballet scene, Li together with Stevenson requests a time extension in America, but the Chinese government refuses. Overwhelmed by the opportunities offered in America and in love with Mackey, Li is determined to stay. With legal advice that the Chinese government would recognize certain residence rights arising from an international marriage, Li and Mackey rush into a marriage. To declare personal responsibility for his decision and hopefully avoid consequences for his family and Stevenson, Li visits the Chinese Consulate in Houston. The Chinese resident diplomat forcibly detains Li in attempt to coerce his return to China. Unknown to Li, the situation quickly evolves when the media and high level government agents both in the US and China become involved. When Li perseveres in his refusal to repatriate, the Chinese Government agrees to release him but revokes his citizenship and declares he can never return to the land of his birth.

Li and Elizabeth are set to depart for Florida but Li is persuaded to stay by Stevenson for his ballet company, dooming Elizabeth's prospects of dancing success. Burdened by this, plus concerned for and unable to communicate with his family, Cunxin continues to excel at dance, but his relationship with Elizabeth disintegrates and their marriage ends. Five years later, as a show of goodwill the Chinese government allows Li's parents to visit him in the US where they finally witness his performance of the The Rite of Spring and even reunite with him on stage. Li is eventually granted permission to visit China. Together with his new wife Mary McKendry (Camilla Vergotis), an Australian ballerina, and coming back to the village of his youth, he rejoins family and the former teacher Chan. Li and McKendry give an impromptu outdoor ballet performance with his wife to the village's uproarious cheer.

Closing credits announce that: Li Cunxin danced in China with the Houston Ballet in 1995, a performance broadcast to an audience of over 500 million people. He and Mary McKendry now live in Australia with their three children. Ben Stevenson left the Houston Ballet after 27 years as Artistic Director. Acclaimed as one of the world’s leading choreographers, he is now Artistic Director of the Texas Ballet Theater. Charles C. Foster still practices law in Houston. He is recognized internationally as an authority on Immigration Law. Elizabeth Mackey (Liz) danced with the Oklahoma Ballet for some years. She is now a speech therapist, working mainly with children.

Release Dates:

Theatrical : 2010-08-20 : United States of America

DVD : 2011-07-26