Li Cunxin was born into utter poverty in Mao’s communist China, at the age of 11 he was selected to train in Madame Mao’s Beijing Dance Academy. And so began Li’s journey. The 7 years of harsh training regime at the Beijing Dance Academy taught him discipline, resilience, determination and perseverance. Li’s astounding drive and relentless hard work made him one of the best dancers China has produced.
When he was 18, Li was awarded one of the first cultural scholarships to go to America, and subsequently been offered a soloist contract with the Houston Ballet. Two years later, Li defected to the West in a dramatic media storm, which involved the then Vice President, Mr George Bush Snr. He then went on to become one of the best dancers in the world, won two silver and a bronze medal at three International Ballet Competitions. In 1995, Li and his family moved to Australia where Li danced his last three and half years as a principal dancer with the Australian Ballet.
For the final two years of his dancing, Li studied finance at the Australian Securities Institute with a view of becoming a stockbroker. This meant rising at five in the morning to start his daily ballet practise, then racing to the stock exchange by eight. By the time he joined the rest of the company’s dancers for afternoon rehearsals; he had already put in a full day’s work. Li made a successful career transition from ballet to finance in 1999. He is a senior manager at one of the largest stockbroking firms in Australia.
The rich story of Li’s inspirational life is recounted in his memoir Mao’s Last Dancer, which was published by Penguin-Australia in September 2003. It quickly rose to No. 1 on the Australian Non-Fiction Best-Seller List and was named in Amazon.com’s Break-Out Books list after only several weeks after its US release before receiving the Christopher Award for Literature. His book went on to win the Book of the Year Award in Australia and was short-listed for several other prestigious literacy awards. It’s in the 52nd reprint. Li’s book has been translated into several foreign languages and is sold in over 20 countries worldwide. In May 2005, the Young Readers’ Edition of Mao’s Last Dancer has been released in Australia. The Academy Award winning director Bruce Beresford, producer Jane Scott and screenplay writer Jan Sardi have teamed up to produce a blockbuster, award winning featured film based on Li’s extraordinary life.
Li has received Shepherd Centre’s 2009 Australian Father of the Year Award, he has been Honoured with a Doctorate for his contribution to Arts and Literature by the Australian Catholic University. Li is also Queensland Australian of the Year in 2014.
As a motivational and inspirational speaker, Li’s unique real life story works so effectively with corporations and conferences’ various themes and objectives. It is a story that can touch people deep in their hearts.