Mao's Last Dancer | Chicago Reader

Mao's Last Dancer

Ballet star Li Cunxin's best-selling autobiography gets a curiously tepid treatment in this 2009 adaptation by director Bruce Beresford. As a child during the Cultural Revolution, Li is plucked from his remote rural village to study ballet in Beijing, where eventually he's noticed by visiting Houston Ballet artistic director Ben Stevenson (Bruce Greenwood), an avid promoter of cultural exchange between China and the U.S. During a guest stint with Stevenson's company, Li (played as an adult by Birmingham Royal Ballet principal dancer Chi Cao) marries an American and defects. Cao is a charismatic dancer, but the acting in general is lackluster, the cinematography by Peter James is drab, and the ballet numbers are too brief. With Joan Chen, Kyle MacLachlan, and Jack Thompson. In English and subtitled Mandarin.



  • Bruce Beresford


  • Bruce Greenwood
  • Kyle MacLachlan
  • Joan Chen
  • Chi Cao
  • Amanda Schull
  • Wang Shuangbao
  • Camilla Vergotis
  • Zhang Su
  • Guo Chengwu
  • Huang Wenbin
  • Steven Heathcote


  • Jane Scott
  • Troy Lum

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