Thank you Li, from Queensland Ballet!

As we approach the end of Artistic Director Li Cunxin AO’s incredible 11-year tenure at Queensland Ballet, we put the call out to staff to share their best memories, anecdotes, and reflections from their time working with Li. From Costume to Finance to the Academy, the underlying theme woven throughout is gratitude.

Thank you Li, from Queensland Ballet!

Human Resources

“Li’s visionary leadership has not only shaped our artistic endeavours but has been instrumental in elevating the importance of our human resources and safety functions at Queensland Ballet. I am grateful for Li’s support and collaboration in building QB’s HR function over the past 6.5 years. Li’s willingness and flexibility to put people first and to adapt core HR and safety practice in an artistic environment has been enlightening and inspiring. I am grateful for having had a unique opportunity to work with him to grow and improve the company’s practices and policies and have been inspired by his leadership, generosity and commitment to excellence.” – Candice Sheldon, Head of Safety and Wellbeing 

Venue Hire and Sector Engagement

“I’ll always be grateful to Li for giving me guidance and mentorship in my career after retiring as a full-time dancer. His friendship, wisdom and kindness will be very missed.” – Craig Cathcart, Executive Producer


“What I like most about working with Li is that he always takes time to thank and acknowledge the people he works with. Not only the ones highest in the structures or most important, but everyone. He often passes on handwritten notes, which are beautiful signs of his care and respect.” – Julia Lebiocka, Precincts Relations Manager 

Queensland Ballet Academy

“I will always be grateful for Li’s trust and the support over the last 11 years. For giving me the opportunity to build an Academy for QB alongside a passionate and talented team, for bringing me back on stage after my retirement, and of course for enabling Zenia and I to continue our QB journey together.” - Christian Tàtchev, Academy Director

“My personal journey began in 1987 with Queensland Ballet as a Principal Dancer so to be still involved and to have been a part of Li’s team and leadership has been a real honour. I have witnessed the enormous growth and advancements that he has been able to accomplish with the Academy and Company and his passion, work ethic and desire to create excellence has been inspiring. I will remember Li as a gracious and generous man.” – Paul Boyd, Academy Ballet Master and Resident Choreographer

“I still remember the first time I met Li. You could see how passionate he was about ballet, and I still remember seeing him in Cuba during a ballet class and it was so clear how much he was was enjoying every step, his eyes always looking for details, how to make jumps and turns better, and how to improve lifts. I feel so lucky to have had him as a coach, and as a director.” – Camilo Ramos, Pre-Professional Program Coordinator

“When Li took the reins, our first main stage season was Cinderella. It is a beautiful production and on closing night I was Li’s first promotion here at QB. It was done onstage, so we didn’t know what was going on at the time and it was a complete surprise! This is now a tradition. It was very special to be recognized so early on and to be given such wonderful opportunities. I always craved that big ballet company feel and Li created that and believed in me. Thank you for all the wonderful experiences and memories.” – Lisa Edwards, Academy Teacher


“I am incredibly thankful to have been blessed with an amazing fifteen years working for Queensland Ballet alongside my husband, Christian. I am truly grateful for Li's faith in me as a teacher and head of program for the Queensland Ballet Academy, and later to have been personally invited by him to be a Ballet Mistress for Queensland Ballet. Thank-you Li for your trust!” – Zenia Tàtcheva, Ballet Mistress

“In 2013, when Li invited me to join Queensland Ballet it was very different place; around 24 dancers and an aging Thomas Dixon Centre. I’m so grateful for Li’s trust in me, first as a Principal Dancer and Young Artist mentor, and now as Ballet Master. It’s been a privilege to have played a small part in this wonderful period for QB.” – Matthew Lawrence, Ballet Master

Health and Community

“Li is like a shinkansen (bullet-train), and working with him over the last 11 years has been exciting, nerve-racking, inspiring, moving and a lot of fun! He understands the importance of dancers’ health, and how precious their time on stage is. Li has supported my career and the development of QB’s Performance Health team, to help enable the incredible standard of performances that this company has produced. I’m so grateful and proud to have been part of his team during this golden era of Queensland Ballet.” – Zara Gomes, Director, QB Van Norton Li Community Health Institute

“I am privileged to have worked with three of the company's five Artistic Directors. As a dancer with Queensland Ballet, I was directed by Li's two predecessors, Harold Collins MBE and Francois Klaus. Of the three, Li was the first to allow me to direct him. This occurred as part of his preparation for the role of Monsieur GM in Sir Kenneth McMillan's “Manon”. There was many a strained grimace during our strength training sessions but Li, with that incredible smile of his, always thanked me for what I had put him through each day. This is now my opportunity to thank Li for not only entrusting me with his strength and conditioning but also that of the company and academy dancers. His progressive thinking around the requirements of what it takes to be a professional dancer today, has allowed the QB Health Team to become leaders in performance health. Thank you, Li, for your vision and tireless support.” – Tony Lewis, Company and Academy Strength Coach


“Li’s extraordinary tenure at QB brought thrilling musical experiences for our dancers and audiences. My favourites include the stunning Firebird by Stravinsky, Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet of Prokofiev, and Swan Lake of Tchaikovsky. Also the opportunity for me to arrange Mendelssohn’s gorgeous A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Liam Scarlett and La Bayadere (Minkus) for Greg Horsman – the latter being for orchestra and Indian instruments! Thank you, Li!” – Nigel Gaynor, Music Director and Principal Conductor

Marketing and Communications

“When Li Cunxin AO was appointed Artistic Director, I had only recently returned to Brisbane, after an eight-year stint in London. I remember thinking it was a massive coup for Queensland Ballet at that time. I joined the Company not long before the first COVID-19 lockdown and thought the months ahead would be very bleak. But over the course of that year, I was stunned by Li’s determination and dedication. His commitment to retain dancers on full pay during lockdown, and his unflappable drive to emerge from the pandemic in a stronger position was truly inspiring. Mediocrity is not in Li’s vocabulary. His work ethic is remarkable. Beyond his Artistic vision, Li has an astute commercial mind. He’s urged Australia’s philanthropic community to support the Arts and demanded sport-loving Queenslanders value our beautiful artform. I have a deep respect for Li and am still a bit spellbound in his presence." – Lisa Summer-Hayes, Director of Audiences and Participation

"From the moment I walked into Li’s office and mispronounced Pas de deux, I knew he was going to be a good person to work with. He responded with good grace, kindness and saw the teaching opportunity. He quickly connected me with a former dancer who was charged with schooling me in ballet terms and some ballet classes too! (Something I still enjoy to this day). He’s a publicist’s dream, and it’s been a delight to work with such an energetic and driven person, who understands the value of publicity. High performance culture means long hours and always pushing for something better, but it’s been an amazing journey. Li and Mary gave so much to the Queensland Ballet “family”, they saw and nurtured each and every one of us, and for that I’m truly grateful. " Meryn Cooper, Head of Communications

“I think what I will remember most about working with Li is his innate way of radiating warmth and kindness, alongside his drive for excellence. He inspired the best in us because he gave it himself, with so much clear passion and gratitude for what he was creating. Thank you, Li.” – Cassandra Houghton, Communications Specialist


“When I first saw Li walking into the Thomas Dixon Centre in 2012 I couldn’t believe my eyes… ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ is our new Artistic Director! It was with great anticipation that we all eagerly awaited what the future with Li at the helm would look like. I reflect back over those years and can clearly see that he has woven his passion and commitment through every fibre of all that we do and have achieved at Queensland Ballet. I thank him for his drive and enthusiasm as it inspired me to strive to do the best I could at what I do and I will always be grateful to have walked (and sometimes ran) along the path that he forged for us at Queensland Ballet. Thank you, Li.” – Amanda Newman, Shoe Coordinator

“It has been my privilege to share many magic moments working with Li. His passion for creating new works and visionary support has enabled me to design and create new costumes for Coppelia, Sweet Beginnings, Verdi Variations, Little Red Riding Hood, Carbon Field, In the Best Moments, We Who Are Left, Little Green Road to Fairyland, Four Last Songs and as Associate Designer with Desmond Heeley for The Nutcracker. Thank you, Li, for your vision, your trust and support and for the opportunities you have given me. It’s been an amazing inspirational journey.” – Noelene Hill, Resident Designer/Costume Archivist

“It was a great honour to do Li’s makeup and wig when he returned to the stage as Drosselmeyer in the 2017 season of The Nutcracker.” – Michael Green, Wig, Hair, and Makeup Supervisor


“The kudos one gets when you say you work for the Queensland Ballet and in particular, Li, has been incredible, with the most common question, I get asked is “what’s Li like in real life?” to which I reply, he is the most humblest of people you’ll ever likely to meet”, but to use a ballet parlance, “he also keeps you on your toes!” – Geoff Walshaw, Director of Finance and Operations

Thank you Li, from Queensland Ballet!

We invite you to share your messages of gratitude through #QBCelebratingLi.

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we work and perform. Long before we performed on this land, it played host to the dance expression of our First Peoples. We pay our respects to their Elders — past, present and emerging — and acknowledge the valuable contribution they have made and continue to make to the cultural landscape of this country.

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