Author Agnes Bristow talks about
Tia Zhang’s journey of pain and triumph

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About the book

Also available in Chinese

Dancing Through the Shadow is a riveting biography narrating the true story of a young ballerina who grew up in Maoist China. Through many twists and turns, we follow her journey of tremendous courage as she descends from a life of privilege to one of destitution and fear. Her life takes an unexpected turn when she gains acceptance at China’s first professional ballet school and goes on to become one of the country’s leading experts in traditional Chinese dance. Despite this success, her life is rarely one of peace. Bound to obey tradition and destined for an arranged marriage, her dreams are shattered when she falls in love with a man her family refuses to accept. More turmoil ensues when Mao’s Red Guards attack the school where she lives and works. Shortly after, she is sent to a forced labour camp. Struggling to survive in a quagmire of chaos and fear, she stands strong, refusing to abandon her hope for freedom and love.

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About the

Agnes Bristow

Agnes Bristow grew up in rural Newfoundland, Canada. Since 1998, she has been creating and producing television series and feature films. Her credits include Rising Suns, Wildlife Quest, and the Christmas classic Blizzard, starring Oscar winners Christopher Plummer, Whoopi Goldberg, and Brenda Blethyn.

Dancing Through the Shadow is Agnes’s first non-fiction work. She is currently working on the development of a screenplay for a feature film based on the book

Author Q&A

1. What inspired you to write this book?

I met Tia at Canada’s National Ballet School in 2003. She was teaching my daughter classical ballet and I came in for a routine parent-teacher interview. At that time, she was nearing retirement and, of course, I asked her what her plans were for the future. “I am retiring from the school,” she told me “but I am not retiring from life.” She then went on to tell me about the life she had lived, her joys, her sorrows, her tragedies and the lessons she had learned while she was growing up in Communist China under the brutal reign of Mao Zedong. “I want to do something good now,” she told me. ” I want to make the world a better place for others. Many people in China and around the world are persecuted because of their spiritual practices. I have a voice. It is my duty to stand up, to defend them, and to give them hope.” Those words inspired me. They also led me to believe that Tia not only had a very fascinating story to tell, it was one that needed to be heard.

2. What is Tia’s most admirable quality?

I think I would have to say her determination. She has a great passion for Chinese traditions and is a tireless advocate for human rights in China and around the world. She is also fearless, stands strong for what she believes in, and is willing to do the work to help others and make her dreams a reality.

3. How did the writing of this book change you?

It opened my eyes to the chaos that occurs when people’s rights are taken away from them; when they are told what they must say, what they must do, what they must believe in, who they can associate with, how they must dress, how they must think. It’s absolute control. I have always taken freedom and human rights for granted. That’s the world I grew up in. I can’t imagine having that taken away.

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