Dir: Zhang Yuan. China. 2008. 92mins.


Da Da’s Dance, directed by Zhang Yuan from his own idea, feels incomplete. The film seems to head in one direction, takes flight in another, and winds up looking for ballast in the beauty of its elusive central character.

Shot by Zhang Jian in crisp, evocative colour in an un-named Central China location, Da Da’s Dance hits the tail end of this year’s festival circuit where it will find an audience in fans of Zhang’s considerable body of work, but probably won’t be embraced in the same way as his previous successes such as Little Red Flowers or Seventeen Years. Theatrical prospects seem dim.

Li Xinyun, who plays the titular Da Da, is a beauty reminiscent of Shu Qi and certainly this production is in her thrall.

As Da Da, she’s vulnerable yet provocative, dressing skimpily in front of her mother’s lecherous boyfriend. A neighbour (Li Xiaofeng) also spies on her as she dances the salsa (music by Andrea Guerra is an unexpected treat). He, like Da Da, is aimless and unhappy domestically, with his father’s young partner expecting a baby.

A set-to at home with the despised boyfriend result in him telling Da Da she’s adopted, and she hits the road with Xiaofeng to find her real mother. But it becomes increasingly muddled as to whether this is her real intent. Scenes of Da Da seeking out her mother are tantalising but, like her relationship with Xiaofeng, unconsummated.

It is somewhat confusing when reference is suddenly made to Da Da having been born in 1988: up to now, she has seemed to portray a confused, pouty teenager. But any darker motivation isn’t given a name, and she skips out of reach even as she occupies every frame.

Back at home, the film judders towards melodrama, with Xiaofeng having to flee the authorities and Da Da engaging in self-destructive behaviour, including an inadvertently comical drunken scene.

One cannot help but feel that at some point, there must have been more to Da Da’s Dance. The gaps in the story point to possible post-production problems, but there’s also no denying that Zhang is in thrall to his leading lady, who first appeared in Little Red Flowers and is certainly a presence to watch out for in future.

Production companies

Beijing Century Tood-Tidings Cultural Development Company

Zhang Yuan Cultural Studio

International sales

Zhang Yuan Cultural Studio


Zhang Yuan

Dong Ping

Chen Wen


Jia Lisha

Li Xiaofeng

From a story by

Zhang Yuan


Zhang Jian

Production design

Huang Ziming


Quadri Jacopo

Main cast

Li Xinyun

Li Xiaofeng

Wu Lanhui

Gai Ke