The real life star of Mao's Last Dancer Li Cunxin was born into utter poverty in Mao's communist China.

In extraordinary moment of  chance at the age of 11 he was selected to train in Madame Mao's Beijing Dance Academy never having ever heard of let alone seen ballet performed.

And so began Li's journey. The 7 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 produced.

When he was 18, Li was awarded one of the first cultural scholarships to go to America, and subsequently been offered a soloist contract with the Houston Ballet. Two years later, Li defected to the West in a dramatic media storm, which involved the then Vice President, Mr George Bush Snr. He then went on to become one of the best dancers in the world, won two silver and a bronze medal at three International Ballet Competitions. In 1995, Li and his family moved to Australia where Li danced his last three and half years as a principal dancer with the Australian Ballet.

For the final two years of his dancing, Li studied finance at the Australian Securities Institute 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. 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 made a successful career transition from ballet to finance in 1999. He is a senior manager at one of the largest stockbroking firms in Australia.

The rich story of Li's inspirational life is recounted in his memoir Mao's Last Dancer, which was published by Penguin-Australia in September 2003. It quickly rose to No. 1 on the Australian Non-Fiction Best-Seller List and was named in's Break-Out Books list after only several weeks after its US release before receiving the Christopher Award for Literature. His book went on to win the Book of the Year Award in Australia and was short-listed for several other prestigious literacy awards. It's in the 32nd reprint. Li's book has been translated into several foreign languages and is sold in over 20 countries worldwide. In May 2005, the Young Readers' Edition of Mao's Last Dancer was released in Australia. The Academy Award winning producer and screenplay writer of the film Shine, Jane Scott and Jan Sardi respectively, have teamed up again to produce a featured film based on Li's extraordinary life.

Presentation Highlights
The importance of Family values
Human Achievements
The process of realising one's dreams
Rise up to challenges
Commitment and focus
Embracing changes
Continuous improvement and positive attitude
Dare to make tough choices
Goal setting and achieving against impossible obstacles and odds
Performance process to excellence
Successful career transition
China related topics


Li had the entire audience captivated, he's poetic when he speaks.
- Westpac

Li's presentation really moved and inspired me. I personally think his strength is not just his ability to make us feel so deeply but also his great comic timing. It's amazing how he can bring us to tears one moment and then with another comment, made us laugh to lighten the intense feelings. I am definitely looking forward to reading his book ."
- Manager Organizational Development - Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore

Thank you for the opportunity to hear from Li about his life experience. Not only was it inspirational but Li has to be one of the most touching speakers that i have heard from to date. He left you with your own thoughts to ponder what you can do from life's hardships and definitely not missing the smallest opportunities. People were certainly touched by Li's story.
- Boston Scientific

Li Cunxin speaker

Speaker Video

Li Cunxin - Demo Video

Other speakers you might like:

Tim Jarvis AM

Tim Jarvis AM is an environmental scientist, author, adventurer and public speaker with Masters degrees in environmental science and environmental law. He is committed to finding pragmatic solutions to major environmental issues related to climate change and biodiversity loss. He uses his public speaking engagements, films and books about his expeditions/work to progress thinking in these areas.

Catherine Molloy

Catherine Molloy is an International Speaker & Communication Expert, specialising in leadership, sales & service. With 25 years of experience in business, training, and facilitation, Catherine believes in creating effective engaging learning environments through powerful communication techniques.

Mark Matthews

Mark has taken himself from a penniless want-to-be surfer to an international brandname, part time philosopher, story teller, big wave surfing legend and all round good guy.

Two Minute Moves

Lizzy Williamson's Two Minute Moves exists to bring bite-size moments of energy, positivity, connection and wellness into your day.

Rocky Scopelliti

World-renowned futurologist whose pioneering research on the confluence of demographic change and digital technology, has influenced the way we think about our social, cultural, economic and technological future.

Back to Top /**/