Li Cunxin Biography
Li Cunxin was born into an extremely poor peasant
family in Qingdoa, a remote commune village in Northern China in 1961.
The sixth son in a family of seven sons, he lived in a small
house with twenty of his relatives. The family struggled to stay alive, subsisting
at near starvation levels on a daily basis.
In 1972 Madame Mao, wife o f Chairman Mao, decided to revive the Peking Dance
Academy and sent men into the countryside to find suitable children to
attend. At age eleven, Li, with no former experience, was chosen to become
a dancer on the basis of his physique.
After seven years of hard, sometimes cruel training at the Beijing Dance
Academy, he received one of two artistic scholarships to study in America. The
first cultural delegation to China introduced Li to the artistic director of the
Houston Ballet Academy, who would become his mentor for the next sixteen years.
Li fell in love and married an American girl in 1981 which resulted in him
being held against his will for twenty-one hours by the Chinese Consulate in
Houston. It became a huge international incident during which the FBI surrounded
the Consulate and sealed the airport. The American government, led by George
Bush, Sr., managed to negotiate with the Chinese government to eventually secure
his release. Li went on to win two prestigious silver medals at two
separate International Ballet competitions for America. In addition, he was the
principal dancer with the Houston Ballet and the Australian Ballet for over 20
years and was considered to be one of the best dancers in the world.
Li's book, Mao's Last Dancer, took two and half years to write and has
become a huge bestseller in Australia (reaching number one in non-fiction) and
is currently on its fourteenth print-run since September, 2003. After making a
career transition, Li is a senior manager at a large stockbroking firm. He
and Mary, his life partner, have three children and reside in Australia.
A former principal dancer at both the Houston Ballet and the English National
Ballet, Mary sacrificed her career at the height of her profession to teach
their first child Sophie to speak. Diagnosed with profound deafness at 18
months, Sophie is now a bright young girl with cochlear implants. Recently,
Sophie, won a scholarship to study at one of the most prestigious schools in
America. Mary is now a principal teacher and coach at the Australian Ballet.
This biography was last updated on 08/09/2011.
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