On the set of Mao’s Last Dancer

Guest writer: Andrea Sanmiguel, interim public relations associate

Houstonians driving by the Wortham Theater center last week might have noticed a limousine complete with police escort driving up to the box office entrance with great fanfare and wondered: what VIP must be coming in to town?  Had they stayed to watch a bit longer, they would have noticed that the limo never drove farther than four yards and that it kept making that same trip numerous times. Then they might have realized that the cameras didn’t belong to paparazzi but to the film crew of the Bruce Beresford movie Mao’s Last Dancer.

After 14 weeks of non-stop filming throughout China and Australia, the story of Li Cunxin has once again made its way to Houston. For one week the movie’s crew enjoyed the humid air, burning sun and killer traffic of our fair city in order to get every last shot that was needed.

While being on a movie set was very exciting, it didn’t always involve all the action one might have expected. The crew was setting up and taking photographs in the eye of a very angry sun and then had to wait the rest of the afternoon for the sun to go down in order to actually film the scenes they needed, since most were set at night.

Filming took place in the evenings outside the Wortham Theater Center, in the afternoon at the Galleria, and in the early (I mean early!) morning hours of the weekend on the I-10 highway. Bruce Beresford himself showed me shots of Bruce Greenwood (who portrays Ben Stevenson) and Chi Cao (who portrays Li) inside a car against a green screen onto which the images of Houston’s highways will be displayed. I must say that both actors are good matches for the characters they portray.

Top row from left to right: actor Chi Cao, former Houston Ballet principal Li Cunxin, actor Bruce Greenwood; 2nd row: Houston Ballet artistic director emeritus Ben Stevenson

There are a lot of current and former dancers acting in this movie and many notables in the dance world are involved as well. Production teams from Australia, China, and the United States have also come together to make this project a reality. Houston Ballet is proud to be a part of the team that is bringing Li Cunxin’s amazing story to the big screen. We will all wait anxiously until 2010, when we can finally enjoy the finished movie in theaters.



2 thoughts on “On the set of Mao’s Last Dancer

  1. There is a very neat tie-up in the casting of “Mao’s Last Dancer”. Chi Cao who plays the part of Li Cunxin is actually the son of two of Li’s former teachers in China.
    Chi Cao is with the Birmingham City Ballet in England.

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