Maos Last Dancer Book And Film – A Must Read And See

maos last dancer book

maos last dancer bookThis is mainly about Maos Last Dancer book, but the film is also a must see. The book is far more detailed and gives more insight than the film does, but they are both brilliant.

This is a must read book and a must see film for all you ballet lovers out there.  It is a true story and a superb look at a young Male Dancer’s Life Story. The story is written by Li Cunxin, who is the main character in the book, so it is a very personal story.

To find out more about Maos Last Dancer book, click on the image on the left.

The book and the film are set against the backdrop of Maoist China and give the reader and viewer a wake-up call to life living in rural China in the 70’s.  Li Cunxin, who is also known as Brother Six shares a home with his parents and six siblings.  The family are peasants and eek out an existence by farming.

Mao, who rules the country at the time, has harsh philosophies and they are pumped into the school children’s brains. They are not allowed freedom of speech.  In a twist of fate, Li is chosen to train at Mao’s Beijing Dance Academy.maos last dancer book

Li is separated from his family and has to adjust to the prison-like school.  Li gains a love-hate relationship with his ballet, and he is tormented by the bigger children and some of the teachers for being so small and weak a lot of the time.

He gets a chance to go to America, and then gets married so that he doesn’t need to return to China, but always has a sense of guilt, as he feels he has deserted his family.

The dancing is exquisite and the story is an emotional ride for the audience and reader, but is a must see and read for all who love dance, as well as true life stories with a historical element.

Chi Cao plays the adult Li in the film, and he brings a childlike vulnerability to the character, as well as some of the best ballet technique I have seen in a long time.  The dancing in this movie also tells a lot of the story within the story.maos last dancer book

Dancing To Freedom

The book on the left, Dancing to Freedom, is the children’s version of the Maos Last Dancer Book. You can click on the picture to find out more about this Mao’s last dancer book.

As a boy in China, Li identified with the trapped frog in one of his father’s stories: “Even though the frog jumped and hopped, the well was just too deep.”

Li’s own leaps proved more successful; his selection for a rigorous dance-training program led him from his impoverished village to ballet stardom.

The absence of political references in this picture-book autobiography, based on Li’s Cultural Revolution memoir for adults (Mao’s Last Dancer, 2005), sometimes leaves confusing gaps, as when the dancer’s “dramatic defection” (mentioned on the jacket flap) is presented only as an unexplained, lengthy separation from his parents.

The historical note delivers more information, although most children will need an adult’s help to connect the facts with Li’s experiences.

Worlds away from her abstract work in Woolvs in the Sitee (2007), Australian award-winner Spudvilas’ delicate, inked line-and-wash illustrations, influenced by Chinese brush painting, will register strong emotions, even among readers unfamiliar with the tale’s political subtexts. Her paintings make an attractive, resonant package that will especially enhance collections supporting Chinese-language and culture curricula. Grades 2-4. –Jennifer Mattson

Releve In Ballet

releve in ballet

Releve in Ballet means raised in French.

You raise yourself onto demi-pointe (on the balls of the feet) or full-pointe (on the tips of the toes). A demi plie usually precedes a releve so that it looks as though the movement has a little spring, although the toes should not leave the floor. The legs are always straight with well pulled up knees while up in a releve.releve in ballet

What Is The Purpose of a Releve In Ballet

The main purpose of releve in ballet is to develop the leg muscles, especially the calves and the inner thighs. That is why dancers have such beautiful legs.

Releve in ballet also prepares you for pointe work, as your feet and ankles are strengthened. Releve is usually repeated many times and is very tiring for the dancer.

Releve in ballet also challenges the dancer to hold the turnout, alignment, and pull-up when the heels are off the ground.

Releve is used by many dancers to practice their balance. Releve in ballet can be done either at the barre or in the center.

How Can I Get The Most Out of a Releve?

  • Before you go up think of pressing down into your heels.
  • When doing a releve in fifth position, squeeze the legs together as you rise to make it a cleaner and tighter position.
  • Feel those thigh and gluteal muscles as you rise, and use them to develop them.
  • Think of holding a coin between the tops of the thighs and not letting it drop.
  • If going up on demi-pointe, make sure you are as far up as you can get on the balls of your feet without going fully on your toes. You should feel a stretch at the base of your toes.
  • If going up into full pointe, make sure that the front of the foot is fully stretched, and that you are right on the top of the block of your pointe shoes.
  • Think of snatching the feet up without them leaving the floor. The feet will retract in as you go up, about the length of your big toe.
  • As you come down, do not let the upper body collapse. Keep it well lifted.
  • Don’t let the tail bone stick out as you come down, or before you go up.
  • A good demi plie should precede the releve and end the releve.
  • If using the arms in 5th, think of pulling the shoulder blades down your back.

Funny Dancing Videos

funny dancing videos

Everyone loves a good laugh, and these funny dancing videos are some of the best that I have seen online. It is very tricky to make a funny video in dance, as there is no talking, but some of these have got it down to a fine art.


Funny Dancing Videos 

I am sure that all dance teachers can relate to this one. We all have that one child in the class that is the class clown, or the one that never concentrates or listens.

This is my all time favorite, as it is a professional dance company, and they are trying to make the dancing look as though there are no mistakes. I thought this one was very cleverly done.

This one is very clever, but not necessarily that funny.

Here, Ida Nevaseyneva real name Paul Ghiselin, does a retake on Michael Fokine’s Dying Swan Choreography. I just can’t work out how she/he managed to lose so many feathers.

A finally a take on the four swans from Swan Lake. There are loads of these, but I liked this one best.

Which one is your favorite of the funny dancing videos?

First Position Movie – Why it is a Must Get

first position movie

I first found out about the First Position Movie by reading the book Hope in a Ballet Shoe, which is the story of one of the dancers in the movie – Michaela DePrince.

After a lot of searching, I finally managed to get myself a copy of this movie, and it is something that I am going to watch again and again. I can’t believe that nobody here in South Africa seems to have heard of this, as it is a must watch for both dancers and sportsmen alike, as it shows what goes into being the best in your field.

First Position Movie Review

first position movieEvery year, thousands of aspiring young dancers enter into one of the world’s most prestigious ballet competitions, the Youth America Grand Prix, where lifelong dreams are at stake.

In the final round, with hundreds of dancers competing for only a handful of elite scholarships and contracts, practice and discipline are paramount, and nothing short of perfection is expected.

This was a office hit documentary done by Bess Kargman.

Her award-winning FIRST POSITION MOVIE follows six young dancers as they prepare for a chance to enter the world of professional ballet, struggling through bloodied feet, near exhaustion and debilitating injuries, all while navigating the drama of adolescence.

First Position Dancers:

The movie features dancers Aran Bell, Gava Bommer Yemini, Michaela Deprince, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Rebecca Houseknecht and Miko Fogarty.

First Position Movie is a showcase of awe-inspiring talent, tenacity and passion.  First Position Movie paints a thrilling and moving portrait of the most gifted young ballet stars of tomorrow.

Reviews for the First Position Movie:

“No one in our family has been especially drawn to ballet and yet we were totally immersed in this compelling documentary. First Position is one of those rare films which dancers probably won’t want to miss and non- dancers could find surprisingly enjoyable. I’m surprised it hasn’t received national attention and major press coverage- or has it and I somehow missed it?”

“The director of First Position offers a close-up and intimate portrait of a group of young dancers preparing to compete in an elite (and potentially life changing) competition and wisely steps back and lets the dancers, their instructors, and parents reveal the details of their lives.

It is amazing that some have even had the opportunity to dance. Michaela was adopted from Sierra Leone, miraculously beating the odds to come to America. Joan Sebastian only sees his parents a few times a year because he has to live in New York instead of Columbia to pursue his dreams. One girl is home schooled so there is more time for dance class, a life which seems very isolated but she is so passionate about ballet that she doesn’t appear to mind.

Until watching this film, I had no idea that ballet could cause so many injuries. Pain is taken for granted. I winced when I saw the blackened toenails, cuts and bruises which were revealed as the ballet shoes were removed.”

“It was a brilliant decision to reveal the daily lives of these dancers and to ramp up the suspense and reveal unexpected challenges as the competition drew near. By that time, we were rooting for each dancer and holding our breath as they performed in the finals.”

“I normally don’t write reviews, but I had to for this. I am a ballet dancer and thought it would be a cute documentary, but nothing really engaging. I was completely wrong! The amazing things the young people can do never ceases to amaze me. I highly recommend this feature presentation as soon as it is available on DVD. Meanwhile, I’m going to watch it a second and third time in the theaters.”

“As the grandmother of a dancer, this film portrayed the hard work and sacrifices that are made. However, it is not only the dancer that makes the sacrifices, but the family as well. The beauty of it all is amazing, but it is constant training. Just like a muscle builder a dancer must train daily. This film looks into the lives of 6 dancers, sometimes funny, but most of all it is inspiring, well done and a film to watch over and over. I don’t understand why this did not get national attention.”

“I watched this twice in 24 hours – once with my husband and once with my kids, ages 6-8. It was a hit with all of us, and only myself and one of my daughters actually likes ballet. It centers on several aspiring young dancers, ages 9-17, all of whom are training to compete in the most important world famous ballet competition, at which many scholarships and company positions are offered annually. It’s a make-or-break situation for all of these dancers, who have sacrificed their childhoods in pursuit of their art, and a career in it. The dancers profiled include an adopted orphan from war torn Sierra Leone, a teen Colombian boy who would be the first from his country to gain entry into a major ballet company, and many others, each with compelling personal dramas. Although the dancing is superb, it’s the personal stories that keep you engaged, and this film does a great job of telling them.”

After reading all the engaging reviews, I can’t wait to purchase my copy of First Position Ballet Documentary.