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Mao's Last Dancer
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New or Used: 3 copies from $20.00
New or Used: 3 copies from $20.00

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About the Author

Li Cunxin was born in a village near the city of Qingdao, northern China, in 1961. At the age of eleven, he was chosen to become a student at the Beijing Dance Academy. After attending a summer school in America, he defected to the West and became a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet. Li now lives in Australia with his wife and their three children.

Reviews

The life of a poverty-stricken 11-year-old Chinese boy was changed forever when he was selected to attend the dance academy of Madame Mao in Beijing. One of a few youngsters chosen, based upon a suitable physique, he did not even know the meaning of the word ballet. Yet a decade later, Li Cunxin (as former principal dancer of the Houston Ballet and now a stockbroker in Melbourne) would begin his rise to international fame as a ballet star. Li endured seven years of often harsh training as well as academics grounded in Chairman Mao's Communist philosophy, gradually adapting to the regimen and setting the goal of becoming the best dancer possible. He is an expert storyteller, and his memoir-which includes his struggles to perfect his art in the tense political framework, the complex events surrounding his defection, and the heartbreaks and joys of his professional and personal lives-makes for fascinating reading. The portions dealing with his childhood and loving family in Quingdao are especially poignant, and the work as a whole unfolds with honesty, humor, and a quiet dignity. This book has wide appeal, for it concerns not only a dancer's coming of age in a turbulent time but also individual strength, self-discovery, and the triumph of the human spirit. For circulating libraries.-Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

This is the heartening rags-to-riches story of Li, who achieved prominence on the international ballet stage. Born in 1961, just before the Cultural Revolution, Li was raised in extreme rural poverty and witnessed Communist brutality, yet he imbibed a reverence for Mao and his programs. In a twist of fate worthy of a fairy tale (or a ballet), Li, at age 11, was selected by delegates from Madame Mao's arts programs to join the Beijing Dance Academy. In 1979, through the largesse of choreographer and artistic director Ben Stevenson, he was selected to spend a summer with the Houston Ballet-the first official exchange of artists between China and America since 1949. Li's visit, with its taste of freedom, made an enormous impression on his perceptions of both ballet and of politics, and once back in China, Li lobbied persistently and shrewdly to be allowed to return to America. Miraculously, he prevailed in getting permission for a one-year return. In an April 1981 spectacle that received national media attention, Li defected in a showdown at the Chinese consulate in Houston. He married fellow dancer Mary McKendry and gained international renown as a principal dancer with the Houston Ballet and later with the Australian Ballet; eventually, he retired from dance to work in finance. Despite Li's tendency toward the cloying and sentimental, his story will appeal to an audience beyond Sinophiles and ballet aficionados-it provides a fascinating glimpse of the history of Chinese-U.S. relations and the dissolution of the Communist ideal in the life of one fortunate individual. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Apr. 5) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

'An inspiring true story of courage and determination' - Adeline Yen Mah, author of 'Falling Leaves' 'His vivid descriptions of life at home, surviving on family love and dried yams, and of the harsh regime, make riveting reading' Guardian 'Mao's Last Dancer is a modern fairy-tale. Li Cunxin's story is a breathtaking indictment of brute Communism, told with great honesty' - Kate Adie 'Appalling, brave and funny ... you cannot do better than to read this book' Mail on Sunday

Gr 7 Up-In this riveting and absorbing autobiography, Li Cunxin tells of his life as a dancer in post-Cultural Revolution China. During the 1970s, Li, an 11-year-old peasant boy, traveled from his poor village to train with the Beijing Dance Academy. By the age of 18, he was selected to dance with the Houston Ballet for the summer. During this time, Li yearned for the freedom to pursue his art, even at the cost of giving up his family and his homeland. A story of courage and hope, this autobiography will inspire youngsters to follow their dreams, no matter how impossible they seem. Australian actor Paul English narrates with clarity and enthusiasm that holds listeners' attention.-Larry Cooperman, Seminole High School, Sanford, FL Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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