Li Cunxin (pron “Lee Schwin Sing") is a remarkable man borne of a remarkable story. He has published a remarkable book about his extraordinary life. In his runaway international best selling autobiography, Mao' s Last Dancer, Li recounts his determination, perseverance, vision, courage and hard work, and in particular, the sacred family values and integrity that he learned in poverty-stricken China that driven him to become one of the best dancers in the world. He tells of how the sixth of seven sons born to peasants grew up worshipping Mao Zedong before defecting to the United States.
Li was born into utter poverty in Mao’s communist China, at the age of 11 he was selected to train in Madame Mao's Beijing Dance Academy. 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 Amazon.com'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 has been 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.
“Riveting – how lucky we are. Without a doubt one of the best speakers we have had in many years, outstanding."
Australian Friendly Societies Association (AFSA)
“Personally I found Li excellent to work with and a thoroughly lovely man with a great story."
“Great choice of speaker. Thank you for letting us hear the story. Inspiring for all, even those in business. Totally wonderful."
“Comments included: Inspirational; Outstanding; Excellent. Mr Li was absolutely inspirational. Excellent story. Very inspiring; great choice as a keynote speaker. It has been a long time since I have heard such a wonderful delivery presentation. FABULOUS. Very emotional and inspiring. Brilliant session. Really inspirational. The best presentation I have ever attended."
“I would like to thank you for your contribution in making our conference such a success: you are in a class of your own. As your story was about courage, loss and challenge, it transported the listeners into your experiences and aspirations. Your delivery was powerful and effective and you certainly had the audience with you all the way, conquered, inspired and enriched. Your presentation was beautifully structured and tailored to our theme, and you skilfully intertwined a mixture of content, humour and inspiration. You are without doubt one of the better speakers we have heard and the standing ovation you received was testimony to this fact. Your contribution to the success of the PwC Conference was significant and for that we are most grateful."
“Without a doubt one of the most powerful and invigorating presentations I have seen. Extremely impressed by Li's impact, style, personable nature and overall attitude."
“Li has left a lasting impression of courage and determination amongst those who listened to his moving story."
Townsville City Council
“As our closing speaker, your presentation filled our franchisees with humble inspiration that was evidenced by the focus and absolute silence in the room. Standing ovations may be common in the ballet but they're rare at a Quest Conference! You received one as a result of having touched a sensitive chord with every person present. Thank you for communicating to our group on such a special level."
Quest Serviced Apartments
“Li Cunxin was an inspiring and motivating speaker for our clients and staff. The feedback from those who attended was very positive and energetic. After the lunch there was an air of excitement amongst visitors and I have since heard from others (who were unable to attend) how moving Li's story was. Li was able to engage with our audience and encourage them to achieve their best. Thank you for recommending him."
“Li was simply the most outstanding speaker I have heard in the many years of attending Rotary District Conferences – and indeed any sort of Conference! The fact that he received a spontaneous standing ovation from people who never give such ovations is testament to his incredible impact on his audience, and the feedback we have received from many of the attendees reinforces this. Li was such a delight to work with from an organizing perspective, and his humility and “human-ness" sat magnificently with the principles of Rotary. There are no accolades high enough for the warmth and beauty of Li as both a speaker and a human being. It has been a privilege to come to know him."
Rotary International District 9780
“Excellent. The collective tears from our members would have filled a bucket after Li's account of his emotional, profound and inspirational life journey at our retreat at Peppers Resort in the Southern Highlands of NSW. What an amazing start to our retreat. Li Cunxin is a rare human being who has the ability to affect people with his story and be in our minds for the rest of our lives."
Young Entrepreneurs Organisation
“Li's performance was most impressive and inspirational. He is probably the best speaker we have ever engaged at the City of Whittlesea. His story is fascinating and he presents it with great passion, humility and dignity."
City of Whittlesea
“Li was a very personable and inspirational speaker, his relaxed style was a great way to finish a very business orientated and structured conference day.
It was a pleasure to deal with Li."
“Excellent. Li Cunxin was a great addition to our speakers. It often takes a special speaker to confidently impart his message within an arena of over 5000 people; Li was easily able to achieve this outcome and was a positive inspiration to all attendees. There were literally thousands of people wanting to meet him at the conclusion of his presentation. He would be a great addition to any conference."
“Excellent. Li was fantastic & once again full credit to your organisation for identifying a suitable speaker for Motivation Monday. The particular qualities we require are fairly unique. Li had to adapt his presentation to accommodate 3 different audiences, all in one day. He did it with ease. Even the sceptical secondary school Year 9-10 audience was captivated."
Mark Rees Financial Services
“Excellent. We have had more positive feedback from our clients about Li's presentation than any other speaker we have used in the past. Having read his book, I was hoping our clients would really enjoy hearing his story. They loved it and he exceeded my expectations."
“Excellent. Li was an exceptional speaker - appealing to everyone in the audience. His manner and delivery were excellent and his story certainly touched everyone. We often arrange speakers for this conference and keeping up the high standard is extremely difficult and I am happy to say that Li lived up to and exceeded everyone's expectations. The feedback from clients and staff has been outstanding and we have Li to thank for that. Li was extremely adaptive to the audience and I appreciated the time he took before the event to make sure everything was organised to staying around after the event to field all his fans and questions! I would certainly recommend Li in the future as he truly is a remarkable (and humble) man with a remarkable story."
“Excellent! Li was fantastic. When the delegates completed their evaluation of the conference he was rated as OUTSTANDING. His story and the way that he tells it is captivating. You could have heard a pin drop in the room while he spoke. I would highly recommend him as a conference speaker."
“Li was amazing - very inspirational - he had the whole theatre hanging on his every word and made us laugh and cry at the same time. He received a standing ovation when he finished speaking and ensured our Conference finished on a high note. He made himself available after his presentation for delegates to purchase his book and he must have had almost every one of our 700 delegates in the queue waiting for him to sign - and some of them bought as many as 5 copies each!"
The Conference Team
“Li Cunxin was without a doubt, the best speaker and storyteller ever engaged for a presentation by the Australian Institute of Management Qld & NT. Our 2006 Management Excellence Awards Gala Dinner and State Final was made all the more successful because of Li's mesmorising presentation. He held an audience of over 550 people in a trance-like state for over 40 minutes. He used peaks and troughs, laughter and tears, highs and the lowest of lows in his life to transport the audience into his life story. Even then, we were only able to share a snippet of the magic as time did not allow us to hear the full story. Not a person in the room moved or spoke during his time on the stage and all were just a "little in love" at the end. I even saw grown men with tears on their face, let alone most of the women."
Australian Institute of Management
“Li was spellbinding. You could have heard a pin drop. He connected with each and every person in the room, with his very own dignified and humble style. We simply didn't want him to finish."
Business Association of Victoria
Excellent - Li’s inspiring story of self discover and perseverance...had our audience spellbound.
Retravision Pty Ltd
“Excellent The standing ovation Li was given by all present was an indication of how well his presentation went down. The only drawback was that I didn't supply tissues. He was also very generous with his time after his presentation with book signings, photos etc."
Top Tourist Parks
“Li Cunxin's presentation was inspirational, it was appropriate for the audience and the theme of our conference which was looking at the next evolution of operating room nursing. Li Cunxin’s heart warming and inspirational story was well received by the audience. He was able to link attributes of resilience, hardwork, determination and having a vision to issues associated with operating room nursing. Feedback from the audience was very positive We would highly recommend Li as a public speaker."
Victorian Preoperative Nurses Association
"Excellent. Impassioned heart felt presentation that connected with many of the conference delegates"
Australian Performing Arts Centres Assoc.
“WOW – what an amazing life journey. Not even a murmur was heard from the 1200 Sales Staff watching Li Cunxin speak. Li’s life journey (so far) has been absolutely remarkable – from life threatening poverty, to a world class ballet dancer, to a successful stock-broker in Melbourne and committed husband and father…we could all take a leaf out of his book and learn to seize the day and live our life and dreams fully - no matter where we come from, what our ethnic background, social status and regardless of past success’ and failures. There is one clear message from Li – and that is to make the most of every opportunity, every day. He is humble, gracious and a true living legend."
“Excellent, One of the best presentations you'll hear."
Bacchus Marsh Rotary
“His journey is certainly a moving experience, bringing tears to many and extremely inspirational. Could not be happier. Li was extremely friendly and easy to work with."
Tasmanian Schools Administrators Association
“Excellent, Li was the consummate professional in his arrival time, manner, presentation and personable approach. He spoke to an audience comprising of the top level of our industry and held a captive audience throughout his speech."