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At the age of eleven, Li Cunxin was one of the privileged few selected to serve in Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution by studying at the Beijing Dance Academy. Having known bitter poverty in his rural China home, ballet would be his family's best chance for a better future.  From one hardship to another, Cunxin demonstrated perseverance and an appetite for success that led him to be chosen as one of the first two people to leave Mao's China and go to American to dance on a special cultural exchange. But life in the U.S. was nothing like his communist indoctrination had led him to believe. Ultimately, he defected to the west in a dramatic media storm, and went on to dance with the Houston Ballet for sixteen years.

This inspiring story of passion, resilience, and a family's love captures the harsh reality of life in Mao's communist China and the exciting world of professional dance. This compelling memoir includes photos documenting Li's extraordinary life.

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    I read this book before I saw the movie - I loved both, but the book is just perfection. I love ballet and I have always been facinated by the Ballet in China. I always wondered how, in the early years, they were able to become so wonderful without any real participation in the Western World where ballet originated. This book helped me understand this, and it also tells the most amazing story of hardship, dumb luck, hard work, devotion, persistance, passion and dedication. Li is an amazing man. I find it extraordinary that the photos of him and his family when he was a boy, were taken in the 1960's at the same time that my childhood photos were taken. He and I are the same age, but looking at the pics, he could've been born decades before that. Whether you want to learn about the Chinese prolitariate from someone who lived through it; or about ballet and how hard dancers work to make their craft look light as air and effortless; or you simply want read an inspirational story of love over trials, this is the book for you. Indulge and enjoy.


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