Crossing Boundaries- Maos Last Dancer
Crossing boundaries is pushing yourself past the limits. There are many people that cross various boundaries, whether it is a physical boundary, cultural boundary or a mental boundary. This is seen in the prescribed text, the film ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ directed by Bruce Beresford. In this we see not only the main character Li cross boundaries but also, the minor characters, Ben and Teacher Chang. Crossing boundaries also heard in the Song ‘Love Story’ by Taylor swift. This song relates back to the play “Romeo and Juliet’ by William Shakespeare. In these texts we see Romeo and Juliet both crossing boundaries.
There are many reasons why people cross boundaries, perhaps to prove a point to someone, to become a better person, or maybe because of people’s beliefs and values. In Bruce Beresford’s film ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’, we see Li cross many boundaries from a very young age, up until he gets married. When Li first gets chosen to represent China to attend Madame Mao’s Beijing Dance Academy, we see a soul-crushing example of communist strictures being imposed on the art. Li then moves on to America to further his ballet career after all the discipline and dedication in Beijing, under the caring wing of dance director Ben.
Here we see a lot of confusion between Li and his communist Chinese background and the American world. Li is repeatedly depicted looking dumbfounded at the wonders of American life while the Chinese officials are all suitably villainous. The major boundary being crossed by Li would be the language barrier. Li finds it hard to understand and communicate with the Americans’. On several occasions he has had to ask them to repeat themselves. This is seen on many occasions at the beginning of the film. Ben; You been learning English? Li; Yeah Ben; Fantastic! Li; Fantastic?
Ben; Yeah, means great, wonderful. Li; oh fantastic! Coming a poor communist country, Li crosses another boundary, after being disciplined and treated unfairly. “Harder! Get up! Pig Head! Don’t bother attending my class! Keep practicing! You’re weak! ”, because of his weakness. After all the hard work put into the ballet dancing because he wanted to prove he was better then what they all thought he was, Li becomes stronger and by far the best ballet dancer after pushing himself to his best. This fable shows that anyone can push themselves to be better then they think.
While Li is in America he finds a beautiful girl Elizabeth, who he thinks is the one for him. The beach scene we see of Li and Liz is a very important scene, this shows us a close up of the two of them, and Li lets Liz know how he feels free in America and that when he dances in China, its only Political Ballet. “I must dance political ballet in China, but I dance better here because I feel free” The beach scene shows relaxation and this is shown by the diegetic sound of the seagulls and the beach water in the background.
This scene also shows that Li’s English is much more fluent and he understands a lot more. Everything is then going well for Li, his ballet is going just the way he never expected it to be, which was fantastic and he had his girl. But then the Chinese government sent a request for Li to go home back to china after being defected for 9 years, because they realised the fame and talent he had. Li didn’t want to go back to China, because he felt so free and loved it in America, as well as having his girlfriend that he did not want to leave.
Li decides to cross the boundary and marry Liz, so then he is not allowed to go back to China, but this means he will not be able to see his family. Liz and Li then break up, and Liz moves to Florida, to further her career and pursue her dreams, and Li is allowed back in China to see his family. The close up camera shot of Li reuniting with his mother and father is very special, Li is so excited and emotional. When they meet up again, we hear the Chinese traditional music in the background because it becomes a Chinese scene.
This shows Li done what he believed was the best thing to do for him, and that he valued his dancing and life. Not only does Li cross boundaries in the film, but Li’s carer Ben does as well as Teacher Chang. Ben comes across to be a little selfish and crosses a boundary in the way he goes and gets Li from Beijing and brings him here to America and then keeps him in America, when China pushed him to go back home. Ben also crosses a major boundary when he hears about Li going to move to Florida with Liz, and then offers him a contract for a soloist scholarship so he doesn’t leave America.
This leads to the breakup of Liz and Li. Teacher Chang crosses one of the biggest boundaries in the film, by giving the ballet tape to Li when he shouldn’t of, because he wants Li to be able to help his family and become a better dancer. Here we see the close up of Teacher Chang handing it to Li and saying “I don’t think I will be around here much longer”. Teacher Chang knows he is doing the wrong thing and makes Li hide the tape as soon as he gives it to him, and Li has to make sure no one is around while they watch it.
Not only do we see boundaries being crossed in the film ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ but also in the song lyrics ‘Love Story’, we see the same boundary being crossed by Romeo and Juliet, as we do with Li and Liz. Romeo and Juliet both cross a boundary, by disobeying the rules, of the Montague’s and the Capulet’s having a hate for each other, and not socializing at all. Romeo and Juliet fall in love, without the parents knowing for a while. When Juliet’s father finds out he repetitively tells her to stay away, this is seen in the song line that is repeated “and my daddy said stay away from Juliet”.
They continue to stay together, and even “escape this town for a little while”, without thinking of their parent’s beliefs and values, they even get engaged. But then in the end, “I talked to your dad go pick out a white dress’, ‘it’s a love story baby just say yes’. The rhyme scheme makes the song more engaging, and catchy, makes you actually think about the words actually say. Overall there are just two texts that show how boundaries can be seen in many different ways, and I can tell you there are many more out there.. So stop and think what boundaries have you crossed?