Our Chat with Li Cunxin AO

Company Name: Queensland Ballet

W:  www.queenslandballet.com.au    

Key Contact: Li Cunxin AO

Location: Brisbane, QLD

Drink of choice: Tea

Inspired by Li's story and the exciting future of the arts in Brisbane, we are reminded of the transformative power of passion, perseverance, and professional partnerships. Li Cunxin's legacy will undoubtedly continue to inspire generations to come, leaving an enduring imprint on the world of dance and beyond. 

Drinking tea – not coffee, thank you--legendary ballerino and Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet, Li Cunxin AO, returns as a guest in this special episode of Coffee Conversations. Famously known as 'Mao's Last Dancer,' Li joins host Steve Healey to chat about life, ballet and the importance of professional partnerships. Together, they explore Li’s exceptional career and the exciting new partnership between the Queensland Ballet and RSM. 

Recently, Li announced his decision to step down as the Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet at the conclusion of the 2023 season. In this heartfelt conversation, Li candidly discusses his journey with the ballet company and the remarkable achievements they have accomplished under his leadership. In a span of just 11 years, Li transformed a small regional ballet company into a powerhouse revered across the Asia-Pacific Region.

From rural Qingdao, China, Li rose to become one of the world's greatest dancers, inspiring us all with his determination and strength. Li’s autobiography, Mao’s Last Dancer, published in 2003, captivated readers, winning several literary prizes. The 2009 film adaptation of the novel further solidified Li's legacy as an icon in the dance world. Following his dancing career, Li made a surprising career transition to finance, becoming a successful investment adviser and senior manager at Bell Potter. Since 2012, Li has been the Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet and in 2019 he received the Order of Australia (AO) in the Queen’s Birthday Honour List for his distinguished service to the performing arts, particularly ballet.

Whilst sitting in the redeveloped Thomas Dixon centre, the new home of the Queensland Ballet, Li reflects on the creation of this world-class performing arts destination and cultural precinct. Gratitude shines through as Li acknowledges the crucial support from donors, government and corporate partners who believed in his vision for the redevelopment. Together, they have woven a vibrant tapestry of artistry, enriching the world of dance and leaving a meaningful impact on the cultural landscape of Brisbane.

As the conversation shifts to the future, Li and Steve discuss the upcoming Olympic Games and its influence on Brisbane's cultural landscape. Together, they ponder the role of the arts in shaping the city's future.

 Whether you're interested in launching your own business, or just want actionable tips on how to build lasting client relationships, this episode of Coffee Conversations is a must-watch.


Based in Brisbane, Steve Healey is a director of the Tax Services division specialising in local and international corporate tax matters.