Princess Grace Statue Award, 1993

Princess Grace Award
Dance Fellowship, 1986
Houston Ballet



Li Cunxin has had a long and diverse career as an internationally acclaimed dancer. He was appointed as Queensland Ballet’s fifth Artistic Director in July 2012.

At the age of eleven, Li was selected by Madame Mao’s cultural advisors to attend the Beijing Dance Academy. In 1979, he joined Houston Ballet as an exchange student and went on to achieve the rank of Principal in 1982. Amongst many awards and accolades, Li won two silver and one bronze medal at three international ballet competitions, and two Princess Grace Awards.

He moved to Melbourne in 1995 with his wife, dancer Mary McKendry, to join The Australian Ballet as a Principal Artist. Li retired from dancing in 1999, at the age of 38, but maintained his strong ties to the ballet community. Until his appointment as the Artistic Director of Queensland Ballet, Li sat on the board of The Australian Ballet from 2005 and the Bionics Institute.

In 2003, Li published his international best-selling autobiography, Mao’s Last Dancer, which has received numerous awards and was adapted as a feature film in 2009. Li was Queensland’s Australian of the Year 2014.

Li’s contribution to the arts continues to be acknowledged despite his retirement from the stage. In 2008 Li was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Australian Catholic University for his contribution to dance and literature. In 2015 he was named as one of the Asia Society’s Asia Game Changers recognising remarkable people who have made a difference in the world. Li was honoured for his art, his courage and his cultural diplomacy. In 2016 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Griffith University for his services to ballet, the arts and the wider community.