Queensland Ballet News | Li Cunxin returns to the stage as Queensland Ballet’s new Artistic Director

February 23, 2012

Ballet, Press Releases

Li Cunxin returns to the stage as Queensland Ballet’s new Artistic Director

Li Cunxin Photographer Robert Bontscheck

Li Cunxin Photographer Robert Bontscheck

Queensland Ballet announced today that Li Cunxin has been appointed the new Artistic Director of the Company.

An internationally acclaimed ballet dancer, author and motivational public speaker, this will be Li Cunxin’s (pronounced shwin-sing) debut as an Artistic Director.

Queensland Ballet Chair, Adjunct Professor Joan Sheldon AM, said, “We are absolutely delighted to welcome Li on behalf of the Company, its friends and supporters. This is an exciting new direction for our Company, our audiences, and Queensland.

“Li’s passion for dance and devotion to artistic excellence and quality complements our vision as a leading classical ballet company with a distinctive spirit and vitality that is proudly reflective of Queensland and Australia. Li’s extraordinary career, international reputation, networks and commercial experience will provide the Company with invaluable opportunities to build upon the achievements of our 52 year history. The Company can only benefit with Li leading us into the next chapter of our journey of renewal, growth and pursuit of creative excellence.”

The six month global search conducted by Braithwaite Steiner Pretty Executive Search attracted applications from over 40 candidates around the world. “Our culture of creativity, collaboration and intimacy attracts leading artists, performers and arts professionals from around the world. The field was extremely competitive and demonstrates Queensland Ballet’s strong position in the international dance community, our financial robustness and a firm belief in the Company’s potential to build on our success.” commented Mrs Sheldon.

At the age of eleven, Li was selected by Madame Mao’s cultural advisors to attend the Beijing Dance Academy. In 1979 he joined Ben Stevenson’s Houston Ballet company as an exchange student and later went on to achieve the top rank of Principal in 1982. He moved to Melbourne in 1995 to join The Australian Ballet as a Principal Artist. Li retired from ballet in 1999 at the age of 38 to pursue a career in the financial sector. He currently works in Melbourne as a senior manager at Bell Potter, one of the largest stockbroking firms in Australia and is on the board of The Australian Ballet and the Bionics Institute.

In 2003 Li published his international best-selling autobiography Mao’s Last Dancer, which has received numerous awards. The book was adapted as a feature film in 2009.

Commenting on his appointment Li said “I’m very excited. I have been following Queensland Ballet with great interest and feel privileged to help lead the Company into the next era. The Board and CEO Anna Marsden’s commitment to a strategic future for the Company is very powerful. I have always been immensely impressed with the quality of the dancers, and look forward to working with them. I’ve never lost my passion for dance, and I’m excited to start a new journey with such an ambitious and inspiring Company.

“It’s also a homecoming of sorts – my wife Mary McKendry is from Queensland and we’re looking forward to making it our home. Queensland’s cultural industries have experienced phenomenal growth over the last five years and I’m honoured to be joining the Company at this time. I have so many ideas – I can’t wait to get started.”

Li will begin programming the 2013 season when he joins the Company in July. He will be the fifth Artistic Director in the Company’s 52 year history and the first curatorial Artistic Director.

Current Artistic Director Francois Klaus has international artistic opportunities he would like to pursue and the Board agreed Francois would leave his role as Chief Choreographer and Artistic Director at the end of 2012.

Read Li Cunxin’s bestseller Mao’s Last Dancer

Mao’s Last Dancer (Paperback)


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