Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mao's Last Dancer?

A friend of mine mentioned a movie he just saw - "Mao's Last Dancer". Since the protagonist shared the same heritage with me, my friend wondered if I would like the movie but when the credits started to roll, he realized that I would not like it, since the movie was too uplifting.

I have to admit that he was right. I am always leery of uplifting art creations.

I was vaguely aware of the story. In order to give it an unbiased account, here I copied the synopsis of the movie from "A drama based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin. At the age of 11, Li was plucked from a poor Chinese village by Madame Mao's cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet. In 1979, during a cultural exchange to Texas, he fell in love with an American woman. Two years later, he managed to defect and went on to perform as a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet and as a principal artist with the Australian Ballet. "

When I first heard of the story and learned the synopsis, I felt that the title, based on his autobiography, was misleading, sensational and masochistic.

Mao had died for three years when he defected and this insistence of linking himself to Mao is real troublesome. One can never be sure if how proud he is being Mao's dancer. If it is metaphoric speaking, Mao still commands legions of dancers in the world and he is hardly the last. Is he still Mao's dancer? Or simply retired? I wonder if the movie will answer.

To cap my mistrust, my friend told me that the real-life character, Li Cunxin, has become a motivational and inspirational speaker.

On his official website, Li claims:
As a motivational and inspirational speaker, Li’s unique real life story works so effectively with corporations and conferences’ various themes and objectives. It is a story that can touch people deep in their hearts.
Touching people's heart, perhaps. But how his story could motivate me? I honestly do not know.

Motivational and inspirational speaker as a career should never have existed. Human conditions and struggles are unique and chance opportunities often play tricks too. Pretending that everyone can aspire to and achieve same goal, claimed many such speakers, were deliberate cheats and sadomasochistic.

My friend was right. I would stay clear from such emotional manipulations.

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