Saturday, September 4, 2010

Go See Mao's Last Dancer

If you're looking for something to do on this long weekend I highly recommend seeing the new ballet movie "Mao's Last Dancer."

I was skeptical of this - as I am with most dance movies post-"Center Stage" - but it really is a great story. I saw it last week and just loved it. I think what makes it stand out amongst other cheesy dance films is that it's real, honest, and more about the characters than about dance. Somehow in pop culture ballet has been pigeonholed as just skinny, catty bunheads being beautiful swans or dancing to Nutcracker music.

It was refreshing to see a true story of struggle for what one dancer wanted - to see him find his place as he grew up in a harsh ballet environment. And the dancing was lovely. Graeme Murphy's choreography really worked well for the screen. Instead of snippets of just traditional ballets, we get to see more contemporary work that propels the story. Familiar ballet segments are abbreviated (the pas de deux from Don Q lasted all of 2 counts of 8 maybe?) but it's just enough.

It's playing at select theaters now across the country. New York folks can see it at The Paris Theater or Cinema Village. Go!

Official synopsis: From Academy Award® nominee Bruce Beresford (DRIVING MISS DAISY, TENDER MERCIES) comes MAO’S LAST DANCER, the inspiring true story of Li Cunxin and his extraordinary journey from a poor upbringing in rural China to international stardom as a world-class ballet dancer. Based on the best selling autobiography, MAO'S LAST DANCER weaves a moving tale about the quest for freedom and the courage it takes to live your own life. The film compellingly captures the struggles, sacrifices and triumphs, as well as the intoxicating effects of first love and celebrity amid the pain of exile.

MAO’S LAST DANCER stars Chi Cao, a gifted dancer and principal at the Birmingham Royal Ballet making his impressive screen debut as Li Cunxin. The cast is rounded out by Bruce Greenwood (STAR TREK; THE SWEET HEREAFTER), Kyle Maclachlan (“Sex and the City”; “Desperate Housewives”), Joan Chen (LUST, CAUTION; THE LAST EMPEROR) and Amanda Schull (CENTER STAGE; “One Tree Hill”).

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