Mao’s Last Dancer [Movie]

Everyone loves a story of rags to riches, hardship to success and Mao’s Last Dancer is a movie like that. It premiered in the U.S. back in August 2010, and for some reason it’s just being released here in Mexico.

I would like to revisit Li Cunxin’s incredible story of triumph. The movie is based on Cunxin’s true life story which he wrote in his book by the same name.

Mao’s Last Dancer

A drama based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin. At the age of 11, Li was plucked from a poor Chinese village by Madame Mao’s cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet. In 1979, during a cultural exchange to Texas, he fell in love with an American woman. Two years later, he managed to defect and went on to perform as a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet and as a principal artist with the Australian Ballet.

Video trailer courtesy of YouTube.

Mao’s Last Dancer is a 2009 Australian biographical film, directed by Bruce Beresford, based on ballet dancer Li Cunxin’s autobiography Mao’s Last Dancer. Li Cunxin is portrayed by Birmingham Royal Ballet Principal Dancer Chi Cao, Australian Ballet dancer Chengwu Guo and Huang Wen Bin. The film also stars Bruce Greenwood, Kyle MacLachlan, Joan Chen, Wang Shuangbao and Amanda Schull.

The film premiered on 13 September 2009, at the Toronto International Film Festival.General release in Australia and New Zealand began on 1 October 2009. It began screening in the United States on 33 screens in August 2010.

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A real life story: Where is Li Cunxin today? Watch and learn where his tenacity and determination have taken him!

YouTube video.

Mao’s Last Dancer is a movie worth watching. If you enjoy reading, I highly recommend you read the book too. You can find it at

Let us know what inspired you most about Li Cunxin’s story by commenting below. Until next time!

About Romy Macias, Senior Editor

Romy danced with the Ballet Clasico de Queretaro Fernando Jhones for 10 years having reached 1st soloist position. She presently takes on character roles and teaches at the company's junior academy. This site is a testament to her passion for classical ballet. You're invited to be part of our community and join in the joy for this amazing art form.


  1. Awesome story Romy! It’s wonderful to hear of how someone knew their life’s calling and made it despite the odds.

    • Our company’s director went to see the movie 2 weeks ago and she highly recommended it to all the dancers, so it must be good!

      It won several film awards:

      SAN PAULO FILM FESTIVAL – Winner, Audience Award
      PROVINCETOWN – Winner, Audience Award
      ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL OF DALLAS – Winner, Audience Award
      SEATTLE FILM FESTIVAL – Runner Up for Best Film Golden Space Needle Award

      I had so much fun researching for this post. I viewed several youtube videos of Li Cunxin and the dancer who plays him:

      “Chengwu Guo. [He is] one of the top graduates of the Beijing Dance Academy. Chengwu won one of the top prizes in the prestigious junior international ballet competition in Prix De Lausanne in 2006 and won the Gold Medal in the Shanghai Ballet Competition in the same year. He is now a member of the Australian Ballet.”

      If you want to read more about the movie, here’s the official site:


  2. Peter Gehr says:

    This is a truly great story which had a tremendous impact on me. I relate to such struggles, and although I have not become a dancer of world renown, the story hugely inspires me.

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