Review of Mao’s Last Dancer


By Brittany Campbell

            Mao’s Last Dancer, is a great historical dance film. It’s about this Chinese man who is under the control of the Chinese Communist government and Mao Zedong.  He is a ballet dancer in China and gets chosen to come to America and dance there. His ultimate goal while there is to represent the Chinese Communist government and uphold their ideals and practices; to be an example of Chinese society.  The movie itself is based off an autobiography of Li Cunxin, a real Chinese dancer.

In the film, it is really hard for Li to live in America because of the transition from his strict old society to the new one with more freedoms. He isn’t used to the social life and he isn’t used to having political freedom, and the whole while the Chinese Embassy is twisting his thoughts about American culture, manipulating him like they have done since he was a small child. In the film, Li decides to get married and falls in love. This also means that he has ticked off the Chinese Assembly and has caused a lot of bad publicity from America to China.

Produced by Bruce Beresford, the movie goes on to explain the harsh treatment of Chinese peasants under Mao’s rule, and it goes back to the early years of Li’s childhood. Most of the emotion in the film is displayed in the dance numbers, which is what makes this film so different from other cheesy cop-out dance genres. There are real meanings behind the dance numbers; you just have to look for them. Mao’s Last Dancer is a very sentimental film and it will warm your heart.

I particularly liked it because all of the important feelings Li had were conveyed in the dances. Sadness, worry, anger, and love were all cemented into the film by the bucket full’s, adding a refreshing splash to the 80’s dance films, making the genre as a whole more serious and better understood by people. The best thing about dance is that people can interoperate it however they wish, but in this film the viewers are still being pointed in the right direction without the direct meanings behind it and themes presented being bluntly obvious. Mao’s Last Dancer makes the audience think for a change, because a lot of dance films were created to be simple and easy for the viewers to follow blindly.

Will Li manage to live in America? Are the dance numbers really that good? I definitely recommend watching this movie to find out.


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