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|Born||李存信 (Lǐ Cúnxìn)
26 January 1961
Qingdao, Shandong, China
|Spouse(s)||Elizabeth Mackey (1981–82)
Mary McKendry (1987–present)
Li was one of 7 brothers, born into poverty in the Li Commune near the city of Qingdao in the Shandong province of People's Republic of China. At the age of eleven, he was selected by Madame Mao's cultural advisors to attend the Beijing Dance Academy, where students endured 16-hour days of training, which he attended for seven years.
He was one of the first students from the Beijing Dance Academy to go to the United States with Zhang Weichang under the financial support by the central government of People's Republic of China.
In 1979, Li joined Ben Stevenson's Houston Ballet company as an exchange student. He began to question his allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party, and began a relationship with an aspiring American dancer, Elizabeth Mackey. In 1981, they married so that Li could remain in the United States while avoiding deportation. Li wanted to be able to return to China to visit his family, but the Party detained him at its Houston Consulate. This caused a 21-hour international incident at the Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Houston, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation surrounded the consulate while American and PRC diplomats debated the issue. Li was eventually allowed to stay, but his Chinese citizenship was revoked.
Li moved to Melbourne in 1995, joining the Australian Ballet as a Principal Artist. Li retired from ballet in 1999 at the age of 38. In July 2012, Li was named as Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet. He was named Queensland National Finalist Australian of the Year 2014.
He was named the 2009 Australian Father of the Year.
Mao's Last Dancer
In 2003 Li published his autobiography, Mao's Last Dancer. It has received numerous accolades, including the Australian "Book of the Year" award. In 2008, the children's version of this book, Mao's Last Dancer: The Peasant Prince (illustrated by Anne Spudvilas), won the Australian Publishers Association's Book of the Year for Younger Children and the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards Children's Book Award.
- 'Mao's Last Dancer' follows Chinese defector Li Cunxin's odyssey
- Queensland Ballet (2012). Li Cunxin returns to the stage as Queensland Ballet's new Artistic Director. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
- Taylor, Christie. "'Mao's last dancer' tells his story." The Christian Science Monitor. 14 May 2004, retrieved 30 January 2009
- http://www.saxton.com.au/li-cunxin/ Li Cunxin | Speaker profile at Saxton Speakers Bureau
- Jillett, Neil (6 September 2003). "Dance of the peasant prince". The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney Morning Herald). Retrieved 1 June 2010.
- Penguin Books Australia - Mao's Last Dancer film Tie-In by Li Cunxin
- "Mao's Last Dancer is Australia's top dad", Australian Associated Press, Fri 28 Aug 2009
- "Brooks wins Book of the Year award", The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 June 2008
- "Queensland Premier's Literary awards 2008 winners". Department of Premier and Cabinet. 17 September 2008. Retrieved 17 September 2008.[dead link]
- Interview at ballet.co.uk (2003)
- Transcript of ABC interview (2004)
- A public speaking engagement "Li Cunxin - Mao's Last Dancer" on YouTube