Li Cunxin was born into utter poverty in Mao’s communist China. At the age of 11 he was selected from millions across China to train in Madame Mao's Beijing Dance Academy: so began his incredible journey. The seven years of harsh training regime at the Beijing Dance Academy taught him discipline, resilience, determination and perseverance. Li’s astounding drive and relentless hard work made him one of the best dancers China has ever produced.
At the age of 18, Li was awarded one of the first cultural scholarships to America, subsequently being offered a soloist contract with the Houston Ballet. Two years later, Li defected to the West in a dramatic media storm, his escape involving the then US Vice President. Taking his new found freedom to new heights; he then went on to become one of the most celebrated dancers in the world.
For the final two years of his dancing, Li studied finance with a view of becoming a stockbroker. This meant rising at five in the morning to start his daily ballet practise, then racing to the stock exchange by eight. This meant that by the time he joined the rest of the company's dancers for afternoon rehearsals; he had already put in a full day's work! Li then made a successful career transition from ballet to finance, now a senior manager at one of the worlds largest stockbroking firms.
The rich story of Li’s inspirational life is recounted in his memoir Mao's Last Dancer, which quickly rose to No. 1 on the Non-Fiction Best-Seller Lists and was named in Amazon.com's Break-Out Books list, only several weeks after its US release. The book also received the Christopher Award for Literature, going on to be short-listed for several other prestigious literacy awards. Mao’s Last Dancer has been translated into several foreign languages and is sold in over 20 countries worldwide. The Academy Award winning producer and writer of the film Shine, Jane Scott and Jan Sardi, have now also teamed up again specifically to produce a featured film based on Li’s extraordinary life.
Li’s journey demonstrates the importance of family values, passion and a determination to turn your dreams into reality. His ability to captivate any audience has led to speaking invitations from across the globe, including the exclusive Million Dollar Round Table, who invited him to address their Annual conference in June 2007.