Li Cunxin book signing

Former Houston Ballet star Li Cunxin, whose best-selling 2003 memoir Mao's Last Dancer has been made into a new feature film, will discuss and sign his book at 4:00 pm on Sunday, August 1, at the Junior League of Houston.

Hosted by Asia Society Texas Center, the book event comes on the heels of a July 31 preview screening of the film Mao's Last Dancer, starring Chi Cao, Kyle MacLachlan, and Joan Chen and directed by Oscar-nominated director Bruce Beresford, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The film opens at the River Oaks Theater on August 20.

Described as "a moving, true story of family love and a boy's great courage," Mao's Last Dancer chronicles Li's journey from an impoverished village in China to the Jones Hall and Wortham Center stages, where for 16 years he thrilled Houston Ballet audiences with his powerful, sensitive performances.

The book is part coming-of-age story, about a young man's struggles to master a demanding art form. But it also features moments of high drama.

In 1981 the 20-year-old Li, dancing with Houston Ballet as part of a cultural exchange program, decided to defect. A tense 21-hour standoff ensued inside the Chinese consulate on Montrose as Chinese officials locked Li in a room and pressured him to change his mind. As word of the standoff spread and threatened to precipitate an international incident, Chinese authorities relented and allowed Li to leave.

Li Cunxin (pronounced LEE SCHWIN SING) continued to dance for Houston Ballet until 1995, when he and his Australian-born dancer wife, Mary McKendry, moved to Melbourne. Today Li is a successful stockbroker and much in demand as a motivational speaker.

At the August 1 reading Li will speak and then be interviewed onstage by St. John Flynn, cultural programming director at KUHF-FM and host of The Front Row. A book sale, signing, and reception will follow. Brazos Bookstore will handle onsite book sales.

Admission is $5 for Asia Society Texas Center members, $10 for nonmembers, payable at the door. RSVPs are requested; please email those to

Event Details

Sun 01 Aug 2010
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Junior League of Houston, 1811 Briar Oaks Lane Houston
$5 ASTC members, $10 nonmembers. RSVP requested to Fritz Lanham: or 713-439-0051, x17.
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