Mao's Last Dancer | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Mao's Last Dancer

To dance more freely: A Chinese ballerina makes a new life in Texas

It sounds like the plot of an old Hollywood weepie: Child is plucked from rural poverty and sent away to the big city to be rigorously trained as a ballet dancer. As an adult, his trip to the big leagues forces him to choose between his craft, his family and his homeland. This tale really happened to Cunxin Li, who was trained to dance under Mao's arts program and wound up in Houston, in the early 1980s, as part of a cultural exchange. Needless to say, Li, a talented dancer, found considerably more artistic and personal freedom in the Lone Star state. Thus, Bruce Beresford's adaptation of Li's memoir is backstage melodrama, interlaced with geo-political tensions. If the film's narrative seems a trifle pat, at least enjoy the dancing. (Chi Cao, a professional dancer, does a passable acting job as the adult Li.) The Revolutionary ballet Li dances while still in China is wonderfully amusing, and the film ends with a double-whammy: a kinetic sequence from The Rites of Spring that you'll need a hanky for. In English, and Mandarin, with subtitles. Starts Fri., Sept. 10. Manor

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