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By Belinda Seeney
Quest Newspapers
February 24, 2012

[Li Cunxin] The retired, Chinese-born dancer, whose remarkable life was chronicled in his autobiography Mao’s Last Dancer, takes over from Francois Klaus in 2013 to become [Queensland Ballet’s] fifth artistic director.

Mr Cunxin retired from the Australian Ballet in 1999, remaining a board member and persuing a career in stockbroking to support his own family as well as his extended family in China.

He said his love for ballet never dimmed and he’d been approached many times to take on roles with several international companies. “My passion for dance never really left me but like everything to do in life, it’s about timing,” he told Quest ahead of today’s formal announcement.

With his children now grown and his family’s welfare established, the time is right for Mr Cunxin and his Brisbane-born wife, Mary McKendry.

He begins programming Queensland Ballet’s 2013 season when he officially joins the company in July but has already admitted to harbouring “a wishlist” of productions. “I’d like to do a good Cinderella, I think,” he mused. “I love the (Sergei) Prokofiev music, I think it’s a beautiful, romantic story and I think there are some lovely works out there that will help challenge my dancers.”

Mr Cunxin had high praise for Queensland Ballet which he hopes to develop into a formidable force upon the world stage. “This company has got incredible potential and really my vision is to help this company and develop it into a cultural crown jewel not only in Queensland but internationally too.”

He planned to do this by programming high quality ballets, sourcing talented and innovative choreographers and casting the best dancers. “If we can achieve that I think we have every chance to take this company to the highest level of international standard. I would like to bring the best standard and the best works to Queensland wherever they may come from Asia, Europe, America.”

As Queensland Ballet’s first curatorial artistic director, Mr Cunxin will bring on board various choreographers rather than orchestrate the dances himself. “I like to bring in a diversity of choreographers, I don’t like to limit it to just one choreographer. But, having said that, if I find that one choreographer, that one young, up-and-coming choreographer, I will grab him.”

Mr Cunxin moved to Australia in 1995 as a Principal dancer with the Australian Ballet, retiring in 1999. His autobiography, Mao’s Last Dancer, was published in 2003 to much acclaim, winning several awards including Australian Book of the Year. It was adapted into a film, directed by Academy Award winning Bruce Beresford, in 2009.

© 2012 Quest Community Newspapers.

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