Dancing to Freedom
The True Story of Mao's Last Dancer
Publication Date: July 22, 2008
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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In a poor village in northern China, a small boy named Li Cunxin was given the chance of a lifetime. Selected by Chairman Mao’s officials from among millions of children to become a dancer, Li’s new life began as he left his family behind.
At the Beijing Dance Academy, days were long and difficult. Li’s hard work was rewarded when he was chosen yet again, this time to travel to America.
From there his career took flight, and he danced in cities around the world—never forgetting his family, who urged him to follow his dreams.
Li Cunxin was born in 1961 in northeast China. The sixth of seven sons from a poor rural family, his life changed forever when he was chosen to study ballet at the Beijing Dance Academy. Following a scholarship to train in America, and a dramatic defection, he became principal dancer for the Houston Ballet. Later, Li married fellow star dancer Mary McKendry and moved to Australia where he was a principal dancer for the Australian Ballet. Li now lives in Melbourne with Mary and their three children, Sophie, Tom, and Bridie. His life story was originally published as Mao’s Last Dancer, which became an international bestseller.
Anne Spudvilas is one of Australia’s foremost picture book illustrators and painters. In 2006, Anne traveled with Li to China to visit Li’s village, his family, his friend The Bandit, and the Beijing Dance Academy. She then studied traditional Chinese brush-painting to bring authenticity to her illustrations.