News: How Li Cunxin danced his way from Mao's China to the London Coliseum.

Friday 31 July 2015 by Clare Evans

Li Cunxin dances The Rite of Spring at Houston Ballet in 1986.

Li Cunxin was 11 years old when Chinese Officials came to his home and told him he’d been selected to study at Beijing Academy of Dance, not because of any display of talent or skill, but simply because he had a ‘promising physique’. After years of tortuously grueling ballet regimes, he became a star student by 18, and was awarded a year’s scholarship in Texas, opening his eyes to the freedoms enjoyed outside a communist country, and ultimately leading him to defect. As he brings the Queensland Ballet to the Coliseum, he talks to The Guardian’s Judith Mackrell about his traumas and triumphs, and how it affects him when he sees people taking their privileges for granted.

“Even now I can’t stand it when people don’t understand what privileges they have. Perhaps they need to experience misfortune first. There were times when my life felt intolerable, but I’m glad to have known such extremes. They’ve made my life more interesting. They’ve made me the person I am.”

Read more: The Guardian, 31 July 2015

La Sylphide, performed by Queensland Ballet, is at the Coliseum, London, 4-8 August.

What’s On