Elegant Sophisticated Bearing - The Elegant Sophisticated Woman

Elegant Sophisticated Woman Diaries: I like to record examples of elegant and sophisticated manners so as to remind me of how some of the finest women handle life and problems. I hope you'll enjoy this one!

Reproduced for the illustration of a concept only: Please contact me if this violates copyright law.

The following passage is taken from book Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin. I would like to draw your focus to the elegant manner of one of the finest women, Barbara Bush, which I will illustrate by sharing some passages from the book.

This is about a real life story of a poor peasant boy who broke free from Communisim in China and lived his dancing and life dreams but at great cost and embarassment to his country and his family. Despite his freedom, he lived with a broken spirit and heart, like a dead man walking because he was told he could never see his family again.

Excerpt from Mao's Last Dancer

How an Elegant Woman Behaves

Li writes:

The following year we took Swan Lake to the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Two days before our opening night performance, Barbara Bush invited Ben and me to the White House before our busy schedule began at the theatre that morning. We met Barbara in one of the smaller White House reception rooms. Pastries, tea and coffee were already waiting.

'Hello Ben, so nice to see you! Li, how nice it is to see you again.' She opened her arms and gave us both a hug. She was still the happy, warm person that I remembered from my first meeting with her five years before. Nothing had changed, except that she now treated me like an old friend.

'Li, I keep hearing all about your wonderful achievements with your dancing and I'm so happy that things have worked out for you,' she said.

'Thank you, thank you and George for all your have done for me,' I said.

'Oh, Li, we did nothing, really.' She turned to Ben. 'Tell me, Ben, how are all your China adventures going?'

'It's great, I love China. The Chinese people are so sincere. They pay me tremendous respect. I always feel re-energised when I go there,' Ben replied. 'It has changed a lot. Since Deng Xiaoping came along people seem to be happier. They have more freedom now. He has done an amazing job.'

Then Barbara asked me what I thought of China's new direction. She caught me by surprise. I hesitated, and looked at Ben.

'Li hasn't been allowed back,' Ben said, coming to my rescue. 'I know he misses his family. I hope that one day he will be allowed to meet them.'

Barbara frowned and looked thoughtful. 'Which city in China do you come from, Li?'

'Qingdao, where the beer is from.'

'Nice beer and nice city,' she smiled, and then turned the conversation to other things.

My comments

In text marked in bold, note how she:

  • Warmly receives her guests yet retains some personal space and is not overtly familiar.
  • Asks about their interests.
  • Draws attention away from herself and re-directs it back to her guests.
  • Is careful to not leave one guest out when she addressed them both at the same time.
  • Does not make quick promises (that she might not be able fulfill), nor attempt to solve the situation. She refrains from dishing out advice when a problem is made known to her in a casual conversation.
  • She also gently exits the conversation, not leaving the confidant embarrassed nor making him (Li) dwell on the situation longer than he has too. She saves the company from further awkwardness.


Two days later, at our Swan Lake performance, Vice-President George Bush and Barbara Bush invited Chinese Ambassador and cultural attache, Wang Zicheng to be their guests (where he performed) .


After the performance, the Bushes came on stage to congratulated us. Mr Bush stopped in front of me. 'Ni hao, Li. Congratulations. You were wonderful tonight,' and he introduced the Chinese ambassador and Wang Zicheng, who briefed me at the Ministry of Culture in Beijing before our first trip to the US and again at the Jackson Ballet Competition.

'We're old friends. Hello, Cunxin!' he shook my hands excitedly. 'Congratulations, you have made us proud tonight! Would you have time to come to the embassy tomorrow, for tea in the morning?' he asked.

I was so surprised by his praise. I was even more surprised at the invitation. 'Yes, I would love to come,' he said.

(At the Chinese embassy the next morning):

We were welcomed and congratulated by Wang Zicheng and he proudly showed us the reviews of our performance in the Washington Post. He congratulated me for my contribution to the ballet profession and for adding glory to the Chinese people. Then he told me something else. He told me that he had favourably reviewed my situation, and that Vice-President Bush had intervened on my behalf with regard to my parents. He said that the possibility of my going back to China was still remote, but that he would instead try to obtain the Chinese government's approval for my parents to come to America for a brief visit. He made no promises.

I knew Barbara Bush would have been the one who had told her husband of my homesickness and longing to see my family. I was deeply touched. I could never repay her for such generosity and kindness.

I held little hope. Wang Zicheng was simply trying to pay Mr Bush some lip service and trying to shut me up. So as time went on, the hope of seeing my parents after five long years gradually faded from my heart.

But I was wrong. A few months later, I received a letter from Wang Zicheng. He had indeed obtained the Chinese government's permission for my parents to leave China for a visit to the United States.

I held the letter in my hand and tears streamed down my face. I was shaking with joy.

The Excerpt Ends

Mao's Last Dancer on DVD and Books

I loved both, reading the book and watching the DVD.

Mao's Last Dancer DVD

Mao's Last Dancer

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