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by Li Cunxin

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8027-9779-7
Publisher: Walker

In this “Young Readers’ Edition” of his adult memoir, the Chinese-born dancer recounts his childhood and dance training during the Cultural Revolution, followed by his defection to dance in America. In rural China, he and his family had lived through extreme poverty with few opportunities to escape. Selected almost through happenstance to attend the Beijing Dance Academy, Li’s talent was noticed, and he received a scholarship to the Houston Balley Academy. On stage with the Houston Ballet, he was won over by freedom, Western choreography and love for a fellow dancer, which led to defection and a successful career in the West. Much more than his very lovely picture-book biography, Dancing to Freedom: The True Story of Mao’s Last Dancer (2008), this edition spares little in detailing deprivation, political oppression, a fearful night in the Chinese consulate in Houston and, ultimately, freedom to dance in America. It’s an illuminating picture of Chinese life in the 1970s, strained international relationships and the joy of performing ballet. A compelling story for ballet-lovers and all others. (photographs, timeline) (Memoir. 12 & up)