'Mao's Last Dancer' exhibit set for Melbourne

Posted on: 8/6/2018 7:15AM

Mao’s Last Dancer The Exhibition: A Portrait of Li CunxinMelbourne's Immigration Museum will open Mao’s Last Dancer The Exhibition: A Portrait of Li Cunxinon June 16.


Exploring the incredible life of the internationally renowned ballet icon Li Cunxin, this exhibition promises to take viewers on an inspiring journey. Visitors will gain insight into Li Cunxin's poverty-stricken childhood in rural China, his extraordinary journey to become an internationally renowned dancer, and his current life in Brisbane, where he is artistic director of the prestigious Queensland Ballet.


Leaving Brisbane for the first time, the Museum of Brisbane's exhibition transports visitors into Li's unbelievable story. It does so through costumes, photography, audiovisual content, awards and other personal items, shared by Li Cunxin from his own archives. Experienced together, these deeply personal items paint an intimate and inspirational picture. This story is one of fortune, grit, bravery and beauty. Highlights include an exclusive interview with Li Cunxin's parents, costumes from the Houston Ballet's 1990 production of Romeo & Juliet, and a series of kites, handmade by Li for the exhibition.


Li Cunxin expanded on the curation of the exhibition, “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.”


Mao’s Last Dancer The ExhibitionLi Cunxin is truly a global citizen. Having left China in his teens, and performed throughout his career as principal artist with both the prestigious Houston Ballet and The Australian Ballet companies, Li has danced all over the world. His moniker “Mao’s Last Dancer” is recognisable globally, thanks to his best-selling autobiography and its eponymous 2009 feature film adaptation.


Mao's Last Dancer The Exhibition: A Portrait of Li Cunxin also honours the important contribution of those who assisted Li in forging his stunning career, and building a new life outside of 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,” Li Cunxin said.


Mao’s Last Dancer The ExhibitionThese themes complement the commitment of the Immigration Museum to promoting cultural diversity by showcasing and celebrating the moving and powerful stories of individuals who, for many different reasons, have beaten the odds, or gone to extreme measures to find a place to call home.


Li's personal story powerfully underscores the pivotal impact that he has had on the lives of others, both within and outside of the dance community. He continues to act as an arts advocate, community leader and mentor.


Museums Victoria CEO Lynley Marshall, a great admirer of Li Cunxin and his work, feels a particular connection to the project. “We are so very excited to announce this stunning exhibition, and are honoured to be presenting Li's story within the fitting walls of Melbourne’s Immigration Museum. It has been our delight to work with the Museum of Brisbane on the touring debut of this world-class exhibition."


Melbourne will play host to a breathtaking series of ballet works this winter, including one from The Queensland Ballet, of which Li is artistic director. Mao's Last Dancer The Exhibition: A Portrait of Li Cunxin provides the perfect accompaniment.


The Immigration Museum is also currently showing an innovative digital exhibition exploring the life and times of another influential immigrant. Mahatma Gandhi: An Immigrant explores the impact of Mahatma Gandhi's time in South Africa on the formation of his ethos. Access to this exhibition is free with entry.


A truly moving exhibition celebrating the life and work of a remarkable man, Mao’s Last Dancer The Exhibition: A Portrait of Li Cunxin will fascinate and delight not only fans of ballet, but all those intrigued by the strength of the human spirit, and the power of artistic will. It celebrates the vibrant and vital contributions that international citizens like Li Cunxin have made to contemporary cultural Australia.


For more information, visit museumsvictoria.com.au.


Photos: Li Cunxin in 1977 (top); Li with Mary McKendry in Esmeralda pas de deux at Sydney Opera House in 1990 (left), as photographed by Branco Gaica and courtesy of The Australian Ballet and Li Cunxin; and Li at Queensland Ballet (right).



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