The Nutcracker with Queensland Ballet

23 November 2016

The famous Li Cunxin ‘leap’ photograph is a favourite of mine. It demonstrates his athleticism, discipline, extraordinary talent and the awe inspiring musculature he developed as a dancer. His story in Mao’s Last Dancer was made into a movie of the same name and tells of a life that had the most humble of beginnings in China and brought fame and sanctuary in the United States, continued in Australia, saw him retire to be a stockbroker, but now has returned to his first love of the ballet as the Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet.

And what an impact he has made.

With a sold out season at the Canberra Theatre Centre for The Nutcracker, Li Cunxin has brought the company to town for one of his favourite ballets in the lead up to the Christmas season and it was a triumph for an opening night spectacle that engendered so many happy memories for dance lovers with the spine tingling music of Tchaikovsky and choreography by Ben Stevenson, the former artisitic director of Houston Ballet. Li Cunxin has danced it many times but still ‘gets the tingles’ hearing the first few bars of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies.

It was very much a ‘daddy date night’ for so many tiny tots in their tu-tus with their dads, an introduction to the joy of the ballet, a fairy tale story and set that will remain a magical memory for them all. The big kids were there too, young and old entranced by this production, including the Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady (Lynne) Cosgrove and of all people Senator George Brandis. Why I wondered? I didn’t pick him as a ballet lover, but of course he’s from Queensland and at the after party Li Cunxin indicated the need for support from Government to keep this company growing and prospering in what is difficult times for many state based companies.

They spoilt us too. That’s the lucky ones, including me, who get complimentary tickets for which I am forever grateful, and on this occasion were invited to a before, the interval and after party socialising that gave us a chance to congratulate the dancers and hope that this Canberra season will become a permanent fixture on the company’s calendar.

And smiling his memorable smile, Li Cunxin and lovely wife Mary McKendry, were the epitome of grace and pride for this company of excellence that will make a mark on dance in Australia.

He might have been Mao’s Last Dancer but he’s definitely our s to treasure now.