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.Written by
Schull, Amanda who plays Li's wife Elizabeth--the American dancer who leaves him to audition for the San Francisco Ballet--was herself a member of the SF corps de ballet until she retired in 2006. See more »
When his parents came from China to Houston, Li was dancing "Le Sacre du Printemps (Rite of Spring)". According to Li's book, he danced Nutcracker at the time of that surprise visit. See more »
To be honest, I've never actually finished Li's book. I had the vague idea its about a boy from my hometown that went on to become one of the best ballet dancers, but then, being a Chinese immigrant myself, I'm not particularly pleased with people 'cashing in' on their stories. After all, his story, in fact, was of particular interests to westerners because of the clashes of cultural identities between two worlds, which i and many thousands if not millions more overseas Chinese experience everyday. But after watching the movie, I have to say I loved it. The directing truly captured the struggle of a man torn apart between what 'ought to do' and what 'should do'.
I was born in Qingdao, China.So the connection between me and Li's story is very strong. Mr. Li is just about my parent's generation, so in a way, I can see his struggle in my own world, everyday. Qingdao is never short of artistic talent, to many, artistic talent is the only way out. 'There's no national boundaries in art', my parents used to tell me. When I was five my parents bought me my first piano, which cost them an entire year's savings, but it was seen as a valuable investment, 'art will pave the way to success', they used to say. Like my classmates in the piano class, I used to rise up 5 in the morning and practice until its time to go to school, only to come home then stay practicing until 10. Going to Beijing and to study in one of the national music academy would be many of my fellow classmate's dream. I can feel the pride Li's parents had when he went to America, I can also feel the pain he felt when he decided to stay in America. To Li and many others, to become what he was when he went to Beijing would be everything anyone could ever wanted. What more can he hope to achieve? He could've been the best ballet teacher in China, with fame and fortune to boot, but he threw all that away because of love and freedom. I don't believe it was because of money or fame, it was simply a choice made in a heartbeat by a young man who believes in himself.Was it selfish? I don't know. I'm confronted with this question everyday while I'm in Australia, to many Chinese and spectators, Li's action is selfish indeed, abandoning his duties, his parents and his place in the society pursuing freedom and love in a westerner's world. But the longer I stayed in western world, the harder I ponder that question, what is duty? and more importantly, what is a son's duty to his parents? to his nation? The value system is obviously very different back then, Li, who's seeking individual happiness didn't fit into a collective society like China. But, he also had the fortune to be plucked, trained and nurtured to become what he was. Should he repay his 'debt' by going back to China? or should he capitalise on what he has gained and achieve greater personal glory? It's easy to answer for anyone in a particular value group, but for Li and many Chinese overseas, it can be a life-long dilemma. After all, Li's fortunate enough to be sitting comfortably somewhere in Australia writing his book, many buried talents are somewhere in a dusted corner in China tutoring next generations of wannabe talents. But his fortune also comes from perseverance and handwork, from a heart to pursue what he truly believes in. To that end, the movie tells a brilliant story of a brave young man.
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