LI CUNXIN was born into an extremely poor peasant family in Qingdoa, a remote commune village in Northern China in 1961. In 1972 Madame Mao, wife of Chairman Mao, decided to revive the Peking Dance Academy and sent men into the countryside to find suitable children to attend. At age eleven, Cunxin, with no former experience, was chosen to become a dancer on the basis of his physique. After seven years of hard, sometimes cruel training at the Beijing Dance Academy, he received one of two artistic scholarships to study in America. The first cultural delegation to China introduced Cunxin to the artistic director of the Houston Ballet Academy, who would become his mentor for the next sixteen years. Cunxin’s book, Mao’s Last Dancer, took two and half years to write and has become a huge bestseller in Australia (reaching number one in non-fiction) and is currently on its fourteenth print-run since September, 2003.