Li Cunxin biography, plus links to book reviews and book excerpts from books by Li Cunxin.

Author Biography  |  Interview  |  Books by this Author  |  Readalikes

Li Cunxin

Li Cunxin

Li Cunxin: Lee Schwin Sing

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.

Link to Li's website

This biography was last updated on 08/09/2011.

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Interview

In London for the publication of his autobiography, Li Cunxin talks to ballet.co.uk about the book and about his life as a dancer.

This interview was conducted by Jane Simpson on 18th November 2003 and first published at ballet.co.uk. It is reproduced with the permission of Jane Simpson and ballet.co.uk.

From the real-life Nureyev to the fictional Billy Elliott, these days we're all familiar with the legend of the boy who falls in love with ballet and fights his way through to become a dancer. Well, Li Cunxin's story isn't at all like that: in fact it's quite the opposite. This is the tale of a boy sitting quietly in his primary school in a remote area of China, knowing almost nothing and caring less about ballet, when a couple of visitors walk in, pick out one of the girls and say 'You: you're going to be a dancer'. And just as they're leaving, the teacher points at Li and says 'Why don't you try him as well?' - and Li begins a journey which takes him via years of hard work, defection to the West, and stardom in America to the present day, when he lives in Melbourne, an Australian citizen and a successful stockbroker, with an Australian wife and three children and ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Li Cunxin at BookBrowse

Recommended in Detail at BookBrowse

Mao's Last Dancer
Mao's Last Dancer

by Li Cunxin

The true story of how a small, terrified, lonely boy, plucked from his life in rural China, became one of the greatest ballet dancers in the world. One part Falling Leaves, one part Billy Eliot, this is an unforgettable memoir of hope and courage.
Read More

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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Li Cunxin but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Jung Chang

    Jung Chang

    Jung Chang was born in Yibin, Sichuan Province, China, in 1952. She was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen and then worked as a peasant, a "barefoot doctor," a steelworker, and an electrician before becoming an ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Mao's Last Dancer

    Try:
    Mao
    by Jung Chang

  • Jon Halliday

    Jon Halliday

    Jon Halliday is a former Senior Visiting Research Fellow at King's College, University of London. With his wife, Jung Chang, he wrote Mao: The Unknown Story. He has written or edited eight previous books. (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Mao's Last Dancer

    Try:
    Mao
    by Jon Halliday

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