DANCE: Li Cunxin's life will be on show at this special exhibition.
DANCE: Li Cunxin's life will be on show at this special exhibition. DAVID L KELLY

Exhibition highlights life of Mao's Last Dancer

LI CUNXIN is one of Brisbane's most loved and treasured personalities.

He came into our lives through his book and then the movie, Mao's Last Dancer, and then as the respected Artistic Director of Queensland Ballet.

Now we can get to know this great man even closer at an event entitled Mao's Last Dancer, the exhibition.

Now open, and running until April 29 2018, the exhibition explores Li's inspirational story from his poverty-stricken childhood in China through to the chance of fate that took him to Madame Mao's Beijing Dance Academy, to his dramatic defection to the United States and then international fame.

Sallyanne Atkinson AO and Museum of Brisbane chairman said Li Cunxin had made a unique difference to Brisbane's arts and cultural scene since becoming Artistic Director of Queensland Ballet.

"I am delighted that Brisbane will present the world-first exhibition into the life of Mao's Last Dancer and pay tribute to his influence as an artist, arts advocate, community leader and mentor," she said.

Museum of Brisbane Director Renai Grace said the exhibition will bring a fresh perspective to Li's tale by sharing the stories of those who have supported, danced alongside and loved him.

"Our team has been working closely with Li to reach out to his friends, family and colleagues across the world to lend their voices to Li's story and the response has been incredible. We are getting a fascinating insight into how pivotal Li has been to the lives of others," Ms Grace said.

Mr Li said the exhibition turned the spotlight on the many people who had helped him achieve and forge a new life outside communist China.

"Many extraordinary people in China, the United States and Australia made my story possible. I continue to be inspired by their generosity and friendship and am delighted that this exhibition introduces them to Australian audiences," he said.

"I have enjoyed contacting old friends and searching through my own keepsakes and files to find the artefacts and papers that will make Mao's Last Dancer the exhibition: A Portrait of Li Cunxin, a unique experience."

Ms Grace said Museum of Brisbane exhibitions bring together social history and artworks, making the City Hall space the perfect home for an exhibition of Li's life.

"After exploring his early childhood in rural China, this exhibition also celebrates his career as a dancer," she said.

"From its beginnings in Beijing to his appointment as a principal artist with the prestigious Houston and Australian ballet companies, his career is traced through film, photographs, costumes, awards and media, as well personal items that reveal his journey and its emotional and political ramifications, against the background of the social changes that have taken place in his lifetime."

Mao's Last Dancer, the exhibition: A Portrait of Li Cunxin, Museum of Brisbane, City Hall, 64 Adelaide St. The exhibition is open until April 29, 2018

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