Mary’s Last Dance by Mary Li is her own story, written as a sequel to that of her husband, Li Cunxin’s, bestselling memoir, Mao’s Last Dancer. Mary’s Last Dance tells of her passion for ballet and her determination to succeed in her chosen career, that of a principal dancer, and so much more.
Mary’s childhood was spent in Rockhampton, Queensland, living with her wonderfully supportive parents and seven siblings, when she discovered her path in life. Her talent was nurtured by the dedication of her first ballet teacher.
Mary’s hard work paid off and, with the support of her family, she moved to London and was accepted by the Royal Ballet School. She went on to dance at the London Festival Ballet with the great dancers, including Nureyev, then later joined Houston Ballet. There she met her future husband, the much-celebrated dancer, Li Cunxin. They became a popular couple and were much-loved by audiences and friends alike.
Their happiness knew no bounds when they awaited the birth of their first child, Sophie.
Then, at the peak of her career, Mary appeared to vanish from the ballet community.
Now, some twenty years later we discover her difficult, but valid, reasons for doing so. The time has come for Mary to tell her own significant story.
This is so much more than a tale of fame, fortune and sacrifice. It is a narration of a life of dedication, not only to a talent and a successful profession, but to family and to the love of that family and all its members. As with all families, Mary’s story has its highs and its lows, but the ties that bind are only strengthened when times get tough.
Whether or not you have a passion for ballet, you’ll be captured by Mary’s empathy and determination and the love she shares with her husband and family.
Mary’s narrative truly inspires the reader and gives an informative and balanced aspect, not only regarding a life of fame, but with the struggle to do one’s best when coping with adversity.
A must read for 2021.
Mary’s Last Dance is available in paperback, e-book and audiobook
About Mary Li
Mary Li (formerly Mary McKendry) was raised in Rockhampton, Queensland, the third of eight children. She was first introduced to ballet by her teacher Valeria Hansen. At sixteen she was accepted into the Royal Ballet School, London. She joined the London Festival Ballet (English National Ballet) in 1977 and was promoted through the ranks to principal dancer in 1981. In 1985, Mary joined Houston Ballet as a principal dancer. During her performing career, Mary danced principal roles in all the major classical ballets, including Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Romeo and Juliet and The Nutcracker, as well as leading roles in contemporary ballets, some created especially for her. She has worked with legendary teachers, choreographers, artistic directors and artists, including Rudolf Nureyev, Margot Fonteyn and Ben Stevenson. She married fellow principal dancer Li Cunxin in 1987, and they have danced together all over the world. Following their return to Australia in 1995 Mary worked with the Australian Ballet as a coach, while raising their children Sophie, Tom and Bridie. For the past ten years she has been ballet mistress at Queensland Ballet where her husband Li is artistic director. Together they have turned the company into one of worldwide recognition and acclaim.