Li Cunxin, is one of the best male ballet dancers in the world. He has shown great courage, ambition and determination throughout his entire life. He excelled in the gruelling ballet training at the Beijing Dance Academy, made his way to be one of the premier dancers with the Houston Ballet for 16 years before moving on to another career as a stockbroker and today, he resides in Australia while travelling around the world as a motivational speaker.
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Li was born into a very poor family in 1961 in Qingdao in China which was then a communist country led by Mao. He lived in a very small town with twenty of his relatives. His family struggled to stay alive, living close to starvation daily, but because of the family’s love for each other and their determination to live, they try very hard to survive each day. Li’s childhood is filled with love and affection from his family. It was always in Li’s mind that he wanted to be able to do something to help his family. He knew that ballet would be his family’s best opportunity to escape the bitter poverty in his rural home in China. Sure enough, he was chosen to become a ballet dancer. Li then began his journey in becoming one of the best dancers in the world. His family is always there to support him on every decision he made, giving him full support, love and encouragement.
At the age of eleven, Li began his training at the Beijing Dance Academy from 5:30 am to 9 pm for 6 days a week. No matter how much he suffered during the training, he never thought of giving up. He realised that dancing is his passion and it motivated him to give his 100% effort in dancing. Li would wake up at 5 in the morning when everyone is still sleeping and hop up and down the stairs to build the strength of his leg as well as his stamina. At night he would practice his turns by the candlelight. As much as he wanted to live a better life, he had never forgotten about his family that he left behind. Li’s determination has steered him onto the path of success that helped him break free from his communist homeland.
After 7 years of harsh training at the Beijing Dance Academy, Li had become a self disciplined and a student with great determination. He received a golden opportunity to study dance in America through a student exchange program under Mao’s regime. He was later offered a contract as a soloist with the Houston Ballet and danced for the company for 16 years. He was regarded as one of the best dancers in the world. In three international ballet competitions, he won silver and a bronze medal at three international ballet competitions and he performed with some of the best ballet companies in the world.
Here are some quotes and principles that Li stands firm on which have led to his success in dance. “Dance is the ultimate combination of discipline and freedom. Discipline is the foundation to become totally free and creative. If you’re free without a foundation then you could go off the rails.” His self determination, dedication and the willingness to work hard and always behave positively to achieve his goal is his approach to success and to dance.
In the official site of Li Cunxin, here are the testimonials that document his influence on the development of dance. According to Australian Friendly Societies Association (AFSA), “Without a doubt one of the most powerful and invigorating presentations I have seen”. The AFSA are extremely impressed by Li’s impact, style, personable nature and overall attitude. What makes me think that Li is impressive is in the sense of his style and movement in dance which are strong and defined which is beyond ethereal with his emotional conveyance. His dances are one of the dances that are hard to forget. I believe that his approach to dance is one of commitment and focus. From his attitude and behaviour, it can motivate us as dancers to keep in mind that we can do it as long as we stay determined.
Li’s film, Mao’s Last Dancer, is an amazing true story based on the extraordinary pathway he had to go through to become a famous dancer. Li’s success is not just as a dancer, he succeeded in lighting for the true human ideal. The film Mao’s last dancer explores the struggle for two freedoms: personal choice and artistic expression. On the surface, this true story concerns the struggle between the eastern and western ideologies. While some people view his choices as heroic, others see him as a traitor to his homeland. In my point of view, Li left his family behind in Beijing to U.S and began to not only see the world for the first time, but also found his passion in dance. Going even deeper, viewers will see his struggle for creative freedom – the ability to say, do, and dance what he feels as an artist. This is how he has made an influence in dance. I believe that it is true; he gives every dancer mental motivation and hope to achieve a goal by reminding us not to waste every single moment of our dancing journey.
Other than that, Li likes to take on challenges. He requested to enter the America International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, the equivalent of the Olympics for ballet dancers and he achieved a silver medal. “I wanted to get a sense of how my dancing stood up to international standards.” (Li, 292). Li always had a positive attitude towards dance. He had to constantly confront and overcome his self-doubt and insecurities; even when he was locked up in the Chinese Consulate in Houston for 21 hours, which is one of the most famous and controversial defection in the U.S history. The FBI and also the then Vice president George W.Bush was called in resulting in a tension with the Chinese Consulate. The world waited for 21 hours to see what fate has for Li. Li walked out after 21 hours into the streets of Texas and never looked back ever since. These are what people admire about him the most. We have to find our own direction in dance; our own style by dancing from our heart and soul.
Nowadays, the hard work and dedication towards dance that Li has are rarely seen. We can truly see that Li’s story is a true fairytale about a boy who had a dream to become the best ballet dancer in the world. His view on dance training is one of determination and hard work because it provided a path for him to break free of communist China and take him around the world as a professional dancer. To prove the validity of the story above, here are the substantial evidences on his personal thoughts about his life in China. When Li was in America, he told himself that he was “the fish and China is the pond.” From this metaphor we can see how Li felt about China as a fish cannot exist anywhere else other than its pond so like the fish, Li thought he would not be able to live out of China.
From what we can see from his life experience, the approach that Li took towards dance is full of determination, courage, discipline and the passion to be one of the best dancers in the world. His sheer discipline and the need for him to lift his family out of poverty drove him to achieve beyond his limit.
Elias, Debbie Lynn. “Mao’s Last Dancer.” 20 August 2010. Tonight at the Movies.
FAQs, Career. “Li Cunxin – Dancer, Stockbroker and Author of Mao’s Last Dancer.” 2010.
“Determination and Defection.” TripAtlas.com. 2010.
Li, Cunxin. “Mao’s Last Dancer.” Offical Site of Li Cunxin. N.p., 2005. Web. 23 Aug 2010.
Li, Cunxin. Mao’s Last Dancer. Australia: Sheena Dewan, 2003.
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