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Mao's Last Dancer [Format Kindle]

Li Cunxin
4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (3 commentaires client)

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From Publishers Weekly

This is the heartening rags-to-riches story of Li, who achieved prominence on the international ballet stage. Born in 1961, just before the Cultural Revolution, Li was raised in extreme rural poverty and witnessed Communist brutality, yet he imbibed a reverence for Mao and his programs. In a twist of fate worthy of a fairy tale (or a ballet), Li, at age 11, was selected by delegates from Madame Mao's arts programs to join the Beijing Dance Academy. In 1979, through the largesse of choreographer and artistic director Ben Stevenson, he was selected to spend a summer with the Houston Ballet—the first official exchange of artists between China and America since 1949. Li's visit, with its taste of freedom, made an enormous impression on his perceptions of both ballet and of politics, and once back in China, Li lobbied persistently and shrewdly to be allowed to return to America. Miraculously, he prevailed in getting permission for a one-year return. In an April 1981 spectacle that received national media attention, Li defected in a showdown at the Chinese consulate in Houston. He married fellow dancer Mary McKendry and gained international renown as a principal dancer with the Houston Ballet and later with the Australian Ballet; eventually, he retired from dance to work in finance. Despite Li's tendency toward the cloying and sentimental, his story will appeal to an audience beyond Sinophiles and ballet aficionados—it provides a fascinating glimpse of the history of Chinese-U.S. relations and the dissolution of the Communist ideal in the life of one fortunate individual. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Plucked from poverty, Li Cunxin was brought to Beijing to learn ballet. Later, after defecting, he became a principal dancer in both the Houston and the Australian Ballets, ultimately becoming world renowned. Paul English's crisp accents march precisely through Chinese pronunciations and the difficult stories of Li's early life in Quingdao. Occasionally, English pauses on emotional peaks, portraying, for example, Li's fear when his mother faints from hunger and his loneliness while adjusting to life at the dance school. Mostly, English's level narration allows listeners to imagine the contrasts of Li's life--his incomprehension of the wealth and freedom he sees while visiting the U.S. and, soon after, his struggle to attain them. S.W. © AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

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Commentaires en ligne

4.0 étoiles sur 5
4.0 étoiles sur 5
Commentaires client les plus utiles
3.0 étoiles sur 5 It's a condensed edition / C'est un résumé 20 février 2009
Par Stevenson
I just got this book and to my disapointment it's a condensed edition... This is not specified in the description so I felt like telling anyone who wish to buy this book to spend a little bit more and buy the full edition.

Je viens de recevoir ce livre et, à ma surprise, c'est une édition résumé. Ceci n'est pas clarifié dans la description du produit. Si vous voulez lire ce livre je vous sugere d'achetter la version integrèlle
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Une histoire vraie 4 décembre 2011
Ce livre raconte l'histoire vraie de ce petit Chinois, Li Cunxin, répéré par des agents de Mao dans son petit village perdu dans l'immensité de la Chine. Après bien des souffrances et des déboires, il deviendra danseur-étoile. Très belle histoire et pas trop difficile à lire en anglais.
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4.0 étoiles sur 5 Passionnant 24 avril 2015
Par annamark
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
La vraie histoire d' un petit chinois qui devient danseur étoile- mondialement connu. Sa jeunesse en Chine et la description de ses études de danse sont passionnants et intéressants.. Ca se lit comme un roman - parce que en fait sa vie est un roman!
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 étoiles sur 5  257 commentaires
58 internautes sur 59 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Superb account of a glorious life 20 mai 2004
Par Cap'n Bob - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
When my wife and I moved to Texas in the early 1980's, the Houston Ballet's performances were a refreshing antidote to the Southwest's unrelenting commercialism and fixation with football and barbecue. Under Ben Stevenson's lively direction, this troupe of superb athletes pushed the bounds of gravity with grace and verve. Among the foremost in their number was a supple young oriental dancer who was obviously feeling his way toward familiarity with American culture, but always showed uncommon spirit, sensitivity, and vitality in his approach to movement. This was Li Cunxin (pronounced Shwin-Sin). He became our favorite male dancer, and his photos are on our walls today.
This marvelous autobiography by Mr. Li opened our eyes to the unimaginable gulf he had to leap in order to appear before us. When he was plucked from among millions of other peasant children to attend Beijing Dance Academy, the train ride to Beijing was his first. His meals at the Academy were the first time he'd ever had enough to eat. His untrained tendons and muscles were ruptured repeatedly by the contortions he was forced into. Beijing's approval for him to leave China on scholarship to Houston Ballet Academy was China's first such concession to an artist in almost forty years. The first time he ever felt air-conditioning was on the plane to America. His first automobile ride was from the Houston airport to Ben Stevenson's house. And so on - the simple dance outfit purchased for him upon his arrival cost the equivalent of two years of his father's salary in China.
The book contains hundreds of poignant reminders of the risks Mr. Li took in breaking the bounds of his peasant heritage and infuriating both the Chinese government and his American friends when he defected. His indomitable will to survive and succeed is an inspiration to all those who have seemingly impossible aspirations. He tells the old fable of a frog trapped deep in a well, yearning to jump out and see the world beyond but knowing it will never happen. Mr. Li made it out of his well, and became a prince among dancers. His triumphant return to China to perform Romeo and Juliet, with his wife Mary McKendry dancing as Juliet, his entire family in the audience, and half a billion Chinese watching on television, is a spine-tingling culmination to his career.
96 internautes sur 106 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Growing up Peasant in Rural China 2 novembre 2006
Par Eric Langager - Publié sur Amazon.com
There seems to be no end of stories by and about people who came of age during the darkest days of the Cultural Revolution. This book is different from most of them in a couple important respects. First of all, Li Cuxin's family were peasants. Perhaps it would be a bit strong to say that they "missed" the revolution, because Li Cuxin does describe one particularly graphic scene where he witnessed an execution. But they were not personally struggled against. The peasants were the idealized heroes of the Cultural Revolution. Li Cuxin's suffering was poverty, pure and simple. But there are lots of poor people in the world. Secondly, the benefits Li Cuxin was given were unique in that they were not given him by the country he went to (America). They were given to him by the People's Republic of China. And the life he went to was really unreal. Most Americans do not live like the people Li met when he came to America. So this book is not a classic story about a persecuted person who somehow managed to find freedom in the West. As such, I must admit that I often had mixed feelings while reading this book. I don't want to spend too much time on that, but I want to address it, because it is central both to what is right and what is wrong in this book.

For me, the centerpoint of this book is Li Cunxin's decision to defect to the West. He married one of his fellow dancers secretly, and told his benefactor from the Houston Ballet that he was not going to return to China. It is this decision that really defines this story, because everything that happens before it can in some way be considered an influencing factor. And everything that happens after it is a result of it. And it is this decision that causes me to have so many mixed feelings about this book, because I believe the decision was a mistake. It was a mistake, but I have mixed feelings, because while part of me is disgusted with him for doing something so stupid and self serving, it is hard to be to angry with him, given the way he was treated by the Ministry of Culture.

This was my problem reading this book. In one sense, one is inclined to feel sorry for a kid whose dreams could be so casually dashed to pieces by one bureaucrat who just happened to be a jerk. Yet, as I said, this book is not a classic story of a persecuted dissident who escaped to the West to find freedom. Li Cunxin was privileged. Very few young people in America or Australia have the privileges he was given by his government to go to Beijing and study in the top dance academy in the nation. And Li's decision to skip the program and defect was not an act of heroism. It would have been more heroic in this case, for him to go back to China. He says his country lied to him. True, but he lied to them, too. The report he wrote for his superiors after he returned from his first trip was full of exaggerated condemnations of the West that were written to impress, not to give a true account of his experience. I think there is a very good possibility that the blatant insincerity of this report played a big part in the Culture Minister's decision not to let him return to the States. And there is certainly nothing of religious persecution in this book. Li doesn't seem to have had much interest in the things of God, although he did become a nominal Catholic to please his future inlaws. Bottom line: When the chips were down, Li Cunxin did what was good for Li Cunxin.

OK, perhaps I am a little hard on him. An emotionally vulnerable young man, drawn in by a needy young woman. Would I have done differently if I had been in his shoes? I really do try to understand, but my ability to understand is limited, because my experience was not like his, and because there is so much difference between the China I live in and the China he grew up in that they cannot really be called the same country. There are times, in today's China, when I sit at a banquet, or something, and just shake my head at the bounty. It's hard to believe that anyone ever starved in this country. And it is only fair to point out that, while I may disagree with his decision to defect when he did, there is a lot that Li Cunxin did right. His success was not just luck or good fortune. He worked very hard. He took nothing for granted. This, really was his strong point.

Recommendation: Five stars. This is without exception the best account I have read about growing up peasant in the countryside of China. And the story is told with integrity. Mind you, I am not backing down from my original statement. I think he screwed up. But he is honest about his failure--you have to give him that. And while I do not believe his defection was an act of heroism, there is plenty of heroism in this book. He tells us of his brother, who is forced to stay in his home community and forbidden to marry the woman he loves. One cannot help but be moved by the strength of character that overcomes bitter fate by enduring it bravely. Or his other brother, who is given away at birth, and destined to grow up as an "outsider" even though he lives right next door. He, too, decides to accept his fate, and do the honorable thing. I stand in awe of such men. Li Cunxin also speaks honestly about his feelings of guilt at his phenomenal success. This guilt, of course, is misplaced. He did nothing wrong. No one can fault him for wanting to succeed. And his success was a blessing to his family. And a blessing to us; we would not have this story otherwise. This book is well worth reading.
30 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A warm portrait of childhood in rural China 20 avril 2005
Par Margaret Miller - Publié sur Amazon.com
Li Cunxin in a Chinese Frank McCourt: with vivid detail and warm humor, he describes growing up cold, poor, hungry, and surrounded by a big family and memorable neighbors. But Li's life journey is even more improbable. Against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution, Li moves from rural poverty to defection, then international acclaim as a ballet dancer, and finally a reconciliation, of sorts, with his homeland.

Although it was written for adults, my 5- and 7-year-old kids loved the storytelling about Li's mischievous childhood in the first third of the book. The chapters about his rise in the ranks of international ballet were less entertaining. I've read dozens of China memoirs, and this is among the best.
17 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Life across different worlds 26 février 2007
Par Lesley West - Publié sur Amazon.com
Li Cunxin has had a somewhat different life. He was almost doomed to obscurity like the vast majority of people in this world, living the life of a poor peasant in rural China, but for a stroke of luck when his teacher suggested him as a potential ballet student. This changed his life from one type of hardship to another with markedly different challenges, but one which left him lonely, confused about the dogma he had so wholeheartedly embraced and geographically isolated from his family.

It is interesting to read as the young man goes from blind adoration of Chairman Mao and all the things that come with Communism, to a dawning awakening that the West is not the den of inequity that he has been led to believe. But is is the latter half of the book that has led me to offer 4 stars instead of 5 - I felt it was a little rushed, especially his well publicised defection, and efforts to settle in the west and raise a family. I guess we in the West are more interested in his early struggling years, but the challenges he faced as an adult are nonetheless fascinating.

There is no doubt that this is a sincere and amazing story. It is written with a wry humour that makes the tales of wrenching poverty readable (I have no desire to ever taste dried yams!), and gives us an interesting insight into how difficult life was in China under Communism. Mr Li seems a happy and settled man now with a lovely family - I would say he has had a fair fight to get there.
22 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Inspirational, touching, heart-warming 24 juillet 2008
Par Triple A - Publié sur Amazon.com
Li Cunxin accurately portrayed the differences between life in rural China and life in the United States. The difference between city life and rural life in China differs greatly. A great point in the story is when Cunxin was leaving home for the first time, and his brother gave him two Yuan that he had been saving for two months. I also enjoyed reading about Cunxin's life in America and how it greatly differed from his life in China. I was amazed by his change from being a poor farm boy to an international star. That took years of hard work and determination. The story teaches the lesson that no matter what your family background is, it is always possible to leave this path and seek a better life. Overall, this book is well written and I recommend it to people of all ages. Even though the novel does not reflect the lives of all people in China, it gives readers a perspective of rural life in China.
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