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Anh’s Brush with Fame: May 25

This week's subject is 'Mao’s Last Dancer,’ Li Cunxin.

This week on Anh’s Brush with Fame is ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ Li Cunxin who shares his incredible journey from extreme poverty in communist China to principal dancer on the world ballet stage.

The sixth of seven sons, Li was born into bitter poverty in rural China during great famine. Living in the grip of Chairman Mao’s communist regime, a life of hardship seemed inevitable until he was plucked from obscurity by scouts from Madame Mao’s Ballet Academy. At just 11 years old, Li was chosen from millions to begin 7 years of grueling training in Beijing, hoping it would lead to a better life for him and his family.

Li’s hard work lead to a cultural scholarship at the Houston Ballet in Texas. Life in the West opened his eyes to a world of possibilities as he discovered his first taste of freedom and his first love. With his visa coming to an end, Li married his girlfriend in secret in order to stay in America – but it was a decision that nearly cost him his life.

Considered a traitor by the Chinese government, Li was held hostage at the Chinese Embassy until intervention from the highest echelons of American politics secured his release. As a defector, Li was cut off from his beloved family in China and feared that they may have suffered repercussions for his actions, until many years later when his friends in the White House intervened once again to facilitate an emotional reunion.

Li moved to Australia in 1995 and became principal dancer of the Australian Ballet. He is now the Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet. How will Anh portray such a humble and resilient man?
Production credits: A Screentime Production. Executive Producer Johnny Lowry. ABC Commissioning Editor Julie Hanna.

8pm Tuesday on ABC.

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