Video transcript: Mao’s Last Dancer: Li Cunxin at the Immigration Museum

[Vision:  video of Li Cunxin dancing in ballet performance]

Georgina Jerums

A new exhibition at the Immigration Museum tells the incredible story of ballet dance and Li Cunxin, born in 1961 into abject poverty in Mao’s communist China.

[Vision:  Ballet artefacts]

He moved to the west at the age of 18.

[Vision:  Video of Li Cunxin dancing in ballet performance]

Li went on to become the principal dancer of not only Houston Ballet but our very own Australian Ballet right here in Melbourne.

Li Cunxin

To be honest I never thought this was a life transforming opportunity to study ballet.

I knew nothing but ballet.

[Vision:  Photographs and artefacts in museum - Li speaking - video of Li]

And in fact I was barely noticed, just as this people from the Beijing Dance Academy were about to leave the classroom, and my teacher tapped me on the shoulder, and the last gentlemen from Beijing says what about that one.

And she was pointing at me.

And that moment changed my life.

[Vision:  Li posing for photo]

It was an enormous cultural shock when I first went to Houston, a world I never thought existed.

[Vision:  Li speaking] - museum displays]

Eighteen years of my life in communist China was an incredible brainwash by Mao’s political propaganda, so we grew up thinking we were the most privileged children, luckiest children on earth.

[Vision:  Li speaking]

But when I went to America, seeing the prosperity, the freedom people enjoyed, and I really thought my God, that’s not what I was led to believe.

[Vision:  Museum displays]

Costumes, photos and rare video footage make up this intimate portrait of an outstanding performer, who for the past six years has been Artistic Director of Queensland Ballet.

[Vision:  Li speaking - photo on display of Li]

Well I do hope people in the west world, particularly in Australia, have the opportunity to dream big, to work hard to make their dreams come true, and to have their heart in the right place to make positive contributions to the society.

[Vision:  Video of Li dancing]

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[Speaker:  Authorised by Victorian Government, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne]

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