The Movie: Mao’s Last Dancer

Posted Thursday, July 15th, 2010. Filed Under Voices of wisdom

I saw this movie last night with my best friend. We sat there not knowing what to expect. I LOVED every second of this movie. It was so well written, acted and directed. I wanted it to go on forever. I could have watched “Li” dance forever.
It compels me to want to go to the ballet!

What was more compelling was watching Li’s life story unfold and then the pinnacle moment when he decided to defect from his home country, communist China. He was taken (“chosen”) as a young boy of maybe 7 years old from his peasant family and brought to Beijing to study ballet. Unlike the other dancers, he struggled with why he was there. One teacher, Chan, takes him “under his wing” so to speak and introduces him to the art of classical dance. As his mentor, and a true teacher of classical ballet, he shares a story that stays with Li and unleashes a new desire for him to be his best. He does become the best. Unfortunately, communist China wants to infuse elements of communism into the ballet which really was in contrast to classical moves. Chan, his mentor, is taken away by the communist party as they question his loyalty.

Li is given the opportunity to go to America on a three month “visit” to study at the Houston Ballet, one of the most prestigious ballet houses in the country. He is there to represent his home country China.

In America he is faced with many questions — mostly questioning what he was “taught” in his mother country, communist China regarding the West.

When it is time to leave he does not want to. The decision to stay was not taken lightly. He knows that his country will not be happy however he needs to follow his heart. What his heart was saying was that in America he can dance the way he wants, what makes him feel free! He is an exquisite dancer.

THERE IS ALWAYS A CHOICE – FOLLOW YOUR HEART AND TRUTH OR LISTEN TO YOUR HEAD?. Some people may say it was selfish of Li to not go home …. the consequence of him deciding to not return was that he was ex-communicated from his country and his family. China, falling to global pressure, “allows” him to stay but says that he cannot come home to his country and will never see his family again. His decision haunts him throughout the movie. Did he make the right choice?

When making a decision, especially one that can carry such a large consequence, how do you choose? I say you do follow your heart. When you are born with a gift, one that brings so much pleasure to the world — even more so to you, the individual, it will go against every grain of your fibre to choose otherwise. I meet so many older people who have chosen a profession because that is what was expected of them but truly they hate what they do. I cannot imagine going to work every day of my life, spending hours on end, doing something that I hate.

Near the end of the movie, 5 years had passed and Li’s dancing reputation had reached new heights. He was invited to dance in Washington for all the dignitaries. The Chinese delegate was present and to our surprise and to Li’s surprise his parents were flown in to watch him dance. It had probably been nearly 20 years since Li’s mother had seen her son. When they reunite, it is so overwhelmingly powerful (I am bawling at this point) and there is so much unconditional love that is present that all you feel is this love — THERE IS NO ANGER OVER HIS DECISION OR QUESTIONING HIS LOYALTY. When his parents see him dance and the response from the audience, to me, it is evident that they see that he is fulfilling his purpose.

Li returns to China with his wife, three years later to visit his family — he dances for them.

What a beautiful story and what a great lesson.

If you are not following your heart or truth, and you will know, please consider taking steps to do so. You can begin to follow your passion as a hobby and then when you are ready to take the plunge — go for it! It is baby steps. When you are following your heart and truth, there is a vibrancy that is so evident.

I wish you all a great weekend.

All my love,


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