The man behind the story of Mao’s Last Dancer has always wanted to inspire people to follow their dreams. 

Following his defection to the west almost 40 years ago, Li Cunxin performed throughout the world before settling in Australia.

Now Mr Li has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for his contribution to performing arts, particularly ballet in Queen’s Birthday Honours List for 2019.

“This is truly something special for me,” said Mr Li, the current artistic director for Queensland Ballet.

“I feel so lucky to have had a career doing something I absolutely love and it’s always been my hope that through my story and career that I can inspire others and encourage people to follow their dreams.”

He says he has lived all over the world and is honoured to be recognised for contributing to his new home, as Australia in turn has given him so much.

Following his defection from China, Mr Li spent 16 years as Principal Dancer at Houston Ballet in the US before spending four years as principal artist with The Australian Ballet and then seven years on its board.


Mr Li was recognised as Australian Father of the Year in 2009 and his biography, Mao’s Last Dancer, was the Australian Book of the Year in 2004.

“It’s a privilege to be able to share the gift of ballet around Queensland, Australia and the world through my work with Queensland Ballet and I’m thrilled to be able to have a positive impact through this,” he said.

Another Australian dancer and choreographer, who has made an impact overseas, Meryl Tankard, was also appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia.

Singers recognised in the Honours list include Guy Sebastian AM, David Campbell OAM and Darren Hayes OAM.


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