Mao's Last Dancer

Li Cunxin


"Mao's Last Dancer" In a village of China, the eleven year-old Li Cunxin is selected by the Comunist Party to study ballet at the Madame Mao's Dance Academy in Beijing. Years later, he travels to Houston in a cultural exchange program invited by the artistic director Ben Stevenson and he is promoted to principal dancer of the Houston Ballet. Meanwhile he secretly dates and falls in love with the dancer Elizabeth Mackey. When the China's government asks Li Cunxin to return to his country, he marries Liz and defects to USA. He is forbidden to return to China and has no news of his parents and family. Meanwhile, his marriage with Liz ends and he misses his parents. But five years later, he has a great surprise during a performance.


Li Cunxin-The narrator of the memoir, who grew up in a destitute rural household in China, was selected by Chinese Communist Party to become a ballet dancer trainee in Madame Mao's Beijing Dance Academy when he was eleven. Later, he got a chance to study abroad in America as an exchange student. After struggling hard, he finally decided not to go back to China, following his destiny of freedom instead.

Alfred Zhong-Also known as the "Bandit". He was an American sent over to China to establish friendly connections. At first, he practiced Kung Fu at the Beijing Martial Arts School, but was later transferred to Madame Mao's Dance Academy to learn ballet. He eventually became blood brothers with Li Cunxin. The Bandit, Chong Xiongjun, and Li Cunxin quickly become best friends and support each other emotionally at Madame Mao's Dance Academy.

Elizabeth Mackey-Li Cunxin's ex-wife. She met Li Cunxin in the summer at the Houston Ballet and started a secret relationship with him and later she married him when he decided not to go back to China. Although they got divorced eventually, she gave Li the opportunity to stay in America.

Niang-Li Cunxin's mother. She was a rural Chinese woman, as well as a loving mother. In Li's life, she was his impetus, driving him forward while he was in adverse circumstances. She was what gave Li the courage and strength to continue ballet. She was a very important part of Li's life.

Ben Stevenson-One of the leaders of Houston Ballet Association, as well as Li Cunxin's American dancing guide and host family. He was very nice, and gave lots of helpful advice to Li.

Dia-Li Cunxin's father. He was a Chinese farmer who was characterized with honesty and tolerance.

Teacher Xiao- One of Li Cunxin's teachers. He is inspirational to Li Cunxin and has help him face many of his challenges during his ballet career in Beijing.

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By Brooke Mickerts