Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mao's Last Dancer (Rhoades)

“Mao’s Last Dancer” Gives Poignant Performance
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

As you await “Black Swan,” the new ballet thriller starring Natalie Portman, go see “Mao’s Last Dancer” if you want to see some thrilling ballet. Based on an autobiography by Li Cunxin, it chronicles his defection to America and subsequent career with the Houston Ballet and the Australian Ballet.

“Mao’s Last Dancer” is doing it pas de deux at the Tropic Cinema.

Born in an impoverished mountain village in China, Li Cunxin was selected as a child to train as a dancer in Beijing. In 1979, during a cultural exchange to America, he fell in love with a fellow ballet student, Elizabeth Mackey, causing him to defect. While that marriage didn’t last, he went on to dance down under, marrying Australian dancer Mary McKendry.

The adult Li is portrayed by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s principal dancer, Chi Cao. Amanda Schull and Camilla Vergotis play the respective wives. Kyle MacLachlan (“Sex and the City”) takes on the role of the Houston lawyer who helps the dancer defect. And Joan Chen (MacLachlan’s costar in TV’s “Twin Peaks”) joins the fray.
Veteran Australian director Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy”) gives us a two-hanky chick flick, a poignant examination of the difficult choices Li made as he gave up family and country for love.

But the dance sequences are worth the ticket price alone.
[from Solares Hill]

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