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Mao's Last Dancer: Special Screening at MFAH[7/31]

BY Alex Wang [ June 24, 2010 at 23:17:03 ]

Asia Society Texas Center Presents
In partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston Ballet, Houston Film Commission, City of Houston, and Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

A Special Screening

Mao's Last Dancer
The inspiring true story of ballet superstar Li Cunxin

Saturday, July 31, 2010, 9:00 p.m.
Brown Auditorium, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Tickets: $10
Register online

Simon Cardwell/Samuel Goldwyn Films

Chi Cao as Li and Camilla Vergotis as Mary in Mao's Last Dancer.

Ballet dancer Li Cunxin's inspiring journey from an impoverished childhood in China to international stardom as principal dancer for the Houston Ballet has come to the big screen, and Houstonians can get an early look.

Mao's Last Dancer, based on Li's best-selling autobiography of that title, will have a pre-release screening at 9 p.m. Saturday, July 31, in Brown Auditorium at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Tickets are $10 and are expected to go quickly. The film opens theatrically in Houston on Aug. 20 at Landmark's River Oaks Theater.

Shot in China, Houston and Sydney, Australia, and directed by Oscar-nominated director Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies; Driving Miss Daisy), the film tells the story of how Li was plucked as a boy from his peasant family and sent to Madame Mao's Beijing Dance Academy to be groomed as a dancer. As a young man he was discovered by Houston Ballet artistic director Ben Stevenson, who brought him to Houston as part of a cultural exchange program.

In 1981 Li made international headlines when he informed Chinese authorities he had married an American dancer and wanted to remain in this country. In a dramatic staredown inside the Chinese consulate in Houston, Li and his U.S. supporters, including immigration attorney Charles C. Foster, succeeded in preventing Chinese authorities from forcibly spiriting him out of the country.

Li went on to a 16-year career with Houston Ballet and later performed as a principal with the Australian Ballet. Eventually the Chinese government warmed up to him and allowed him to visit his family in China. Li now lives in Australia.
Hewing closely to his autobiography, the film is a moving portrait of a young man struggling to find his calling in life and to taste freedom, even when freedom comes at the price of exile.

Chinese-born Chi Cao, a dancer with the Birmingham Royal Ballet, plays the adult Li. As it happens, Cao's father was the principal of the Beijing Dance Academy and his mother was a musician there. Both were dorm masters when Li was a student at the school and knew him well.

Two other actors, Chengwu Guo and Huang Wen Bin, play Li as a teenager and child, respectively.

Joan Chen (The Last Emperor, Twin Peaks) has the role of Li's mother. Veteran actor Bruce Greenwood plays Stevenson. Kyle MacLachlan, nominated for two Emmys for his role as Special Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks, plays Foster, who is chairman of the Asia Society Texas Center board as well as founding partner of the law firm of FosterQuan.

Li, MacLachlan, Foster, and possibly other cast members will be on hand for the 9 p.m. screening and will make brief introductory remarks. A 6 p.m. screening of the film is already sold out.

The excitement surrounding the film's release continues on Sunday, Aug. 1. At 4 p.m. Li will discuss his autobiography and sign books at an event hosted by Asia Society Texas Center. Further details, including location, will be announced soon.

Asia Society Texas Center is presenting the screening of Mao's Last Dancer in partnership with the MFAH, Houston Ballet, Houston Film Commission, City of Houston, and Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. Pre-release screening courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films and ATO Pictures.


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