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10 questions with Mao’s Last Dancer’s Li Cunxin


He’s the man who rose from poverty-stricken China to western stardom as one of the world’s best ballet dancers. Queensland Ballet artistic director Li Cunxin tells Brisbane Times of his summer highlights.

Do you think 2021 was better than 2020?
2021 was definitely a more positive year than 2020, especially since we were able to perform
our scheduled productions, with the exception of one cancellation of our Queensland Ballet
Academy Gala and the postponement of Peter and the Wolf, due to snap lockdowns. We are
incredibly grateful this year to not only be in the studio rehearsing, but also performing on stage
to full-capacity theatres.

What’s your favourite (and worst) Christmas memory?
My fondest Christmas memory was when my parents first came to America to visit me after I
had left China. They stayed with me for Christmas, and it was so special to see their wonderment
at this new culture and new environment they were experiencing. I don’t have a bad Christmas
memory, because it’s always such a magical, special time of year.

Queensland Ballet’s artistic director Li Cunxin. 

Queensland Ballet’s artistic director Li Cunxin. 


Who were your heroes of 2021?

My heroes are still the frontline workers, the nurses, doctors, paramedics and police officers
who rose to the challenge during the pandemic. I have such a respect and appreciation for the
people working in the health system, they have been absolutely fantastic through such a
challenging time.

If you weren’t in the job you’re in, what would you be doing?
I think my fondness for food, and of course dumplings, would lead me to open the best
dumpling house in town.

What’s your favourite summer/Christmas tradition?
For many people, the traditions of Christmas often revolve around family. For me, every
Christmas I look forward to the opportunity to be with my family, to reflect on the year that’s
been, and to dream about the year ahead.

If you could share a lunch with anyone over the holidays, who would it be?
I’d love to catch up with Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin, to hear about their new Elvis
Presley movie, which was filmed on the Gold Coast.

Favourite holiday movie or book?
I can’t say I have a favourite holiday book, but there are a lot of books on my “to read” list that
I need to catch up on. I’ll know after I finish my stack of summer reading!

Cunxin’s memoir tells of his journey as the sixth of seven children in a poverty-stricken Chinese village to become an acclaimed ballet dancer.

Cunxin’s memoir tells of his journey as the sixth of seven children in a poverty-stricken Chinese village to become an acclaimed ballet dancer.



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