Asian and Asian American ballet dancers: Mao’s Last Dancer

Opening Oct. 1–Mao’s Last Dancer, the true story of Li Cunxin, a Chinese ballet dancer who defected to the U.S. in the 1980s. I think the Houston Ballet is where it all goes down.

Looks like it has great potential to be a cheesefest, as is the case with most ballet movies, but the really really ridiculously good-looking Chi Chao (Birmingham Royal Ballet) is in it. Also, Bruce Greenwood– of Captain Pike fame–for the older ladies.

Color me excited.

12 thoughts on “Asian and Asian American ballet dancers: Mao’s Last Dancer

  1. satsumaart

    Yay, a post at last! 🙂

    I’m curious about this movie too… it does look cheesy, and anytime you have Texans and nonwhite people together in a film I worry… but there are few enough Chinese people in non-Chinese movies! I want to see it! ;b

  2. Vaneeesa Blaylock

    Hi Wandering!

    I look forward to hearing what you think of it. I saw it recently… I really wanted to like it… and… I did like it… but I didn’t “love” it.

    It’s easily better than most of the stuff at the boxoffice this summer… but, of course, that isn’t saying much. The dance is strong. The “superiority of the West” seems overplayed. There’s no “organic Eastern” qualities, there’s no “rot of capitalism” and even though they sort of do depict excessive consumerism somehow they present it still in a feeling of Western superiority.

    Whether it’s a ballet dancer or swimmer or anyone else, movies about defecting are always a little curious to me. They celebrate one systems desirability… but something about the other system had a significant role in producing this star…

    Ironically I’m in the middle of recreating a series of moments from the life & times of Rudolf Nureyev, so this came at a very resonant moment for me.

    Here’s the first moment:

    We just shot “17 Feburary 1962” Nureyev’s first performance with Fonteyn, yesterday, and I’m hoping to post that piece tomorrow.

    Anyway, I really love your blog! 🙂

    Looking forward to hearing what you think of the film!

    — Vaneeesa

  3. apricot Post author

    Lisa, since when have we let a little cheese dampen our enjoyment of a rip-roaringly campy dance movie? Nevah!! 😀

    Vaneeesa, thanks, I’m glad you like the blog! And I love Nureyev–looking forward to it. And thanks for the warnings about Mao’s.

  4. Vaneeesa Blaylock

    Oh wow, Bruce Greenwood was Captain Pike! I was thinking JFK! Wait till you see this – very different from either of those. I think one review referred to the performance as “refreshingly oblique”

    Oh, and I just read that Li moved to Australia, retired in 2000, and works today as a stock broker! O_o

  5. Jen

    Ooh, I’ve been following this blog for a while now, but this is the first time I feel like I can add something ^^;

    I got Li Cunxin’s autobiography of the same name for Christmas, and just finished reading the book when I found out about the movie. It’s a great read, highly recommended. It explains that Cunxin’s biggest struggle wasn’t actually dance (he worked extremely hard and generally excelled), but to realize, as a Communist Party Youth Leader and being happy to die for Mao, that he’d been lied to by the Communist Party for most of his life about China’s success. So the movie is not intended to portray much ‘rotting capitalism’ because Li doesn’t perceive it (according to the autobiography) to be ‘rotting’, but ‘liberating’.

    The book takes you through Li’s perception of the encouraging changes to the China implemented by Deng XiaoPing, which even as someone who’s not into politics at all I loved reading about. But I guess won’t be covering the political exploration in much detail, which is why I can imagine the movie as ‘good’ but not ‘excellent’. I hope it doesn’t gloss everything over like in ‘White Nights’ though.

    Anyway! I love your blog! I’ve discovered so many Asian American ballet dancers through you 🙂

    1. apricot Post author

      Jen, thanks and welcome!! Please feel free to comment anytime in the future–I’m glad that my blog is fun! 🙂

      I will definitely have to read the book, now. It sounds a bit like Chan Hon Goh’s autobiography–though her section on China was more about how her parents had been dancers under Mao (a very brief portion).

      1. Jen

        Oh my god, my atrocious grammar, that is why I don’t comment much…! But thanks for the welcome 😀 I stalk your blog like nobody’s busines – I started taking ballet classes two years ago, and it’s so lovely to read about someone speaking cadidly about their experience and aspirations.

        I must read Chan Hon Goh’s autobiography, I’m intrigued by how entrepreneurial she is. I digress, I recently read Gelsey Kirkland’s and Suzanne Farrell’s autobiographies back to back, and I love their contrasting views of not only Balanchine and his methods, but also the way they perceive Peter Martins and Mikhail Baryshnikov as dancers and as people. If you have any other dancer autobiographies you’d recommend, I will surely snap them up!

  6. apricot Post author

    Jen, your grammar is fine!! Don’t let a little pesky thing like grammar get in the way of jumping in the fray 😀

    Farrell’s Holding on to the Air is my favorite. If I can remember any of the other ones I’ve read, I’ll pass them on.

    One of my former ballet teachers danced for Balanchine when he was choreographing for the movies. Amazing, no? She didn’t really have any stories about him, but had some fun stories about Hollywood back in the golden days! I’m actually writing a paper about her. If I ever finish/publish that paper, then I’ll share her stories here!

  7. Pingback: Asian and Asian American ballet dancers: Chi Cao and Nao Sakuma « wandering apricot

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