I can’t recall the exact reason for why I read this book. Maybe it was because I saw it on a bedside table in the hotel or did it first grab my attention on the list? I think I may have seen someone talking about it on TV, but whatever the reason was (pity I can’t remember), I was lucky to find it because it’s a fascinating story.

‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ as the name suggests is set in China during the reign of Chairman Mao. It tracks the life of an ordinary child (Li Cunxin) who is plucked from poverty and thrust into the spotlight as an elite ballet dancer in Madame Mao’s dance company. Through this opportunity Li Cunxin is able to break free from the communist confines and live a life only dreamed of in his childhood.

This story gives you a glimpse into communist China, a view rarely seen. It is also provides an insight into the hours of practice, dedication and excruciating pain it takes to be a ballet dancer (I winced when I read the part where the children had to bend over and tear their hamstring muscles).

It is amazing how one brief moment in time can set you on a path that will lead down a very different road. One moment you are looking out the window, when suddenly your teacher singles you out. From this moment you leave your home and family to begin dancing. I wonder how many times Li Cunxin gives thanks for that single defining moment?

After reading this book I started thinking have I maybe missed some moments where I was at a crossroad? Where one decision could have set me on a path that I should have taken? I have now decided I will keep my eyes open to these opportunities and not a let and opening pass by. Maybe everyone should think like this. This is an inspirational story that makes you wonder where your life will take you.

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