If I go back to the very beginning of my awareness of music as a child in a village in Shandong province, it was extremely primitive. We didn’t really have much music. The only thing we really had was loudspeakers in villages, and all day long they would play propaganda songs, phrases from Mao’s Little Red Book, and announce the news. It was really a propaganda outlet for the Party: Revolutionary marches and war songs were my main source of music until I was 11 and moved to Beijing. Anything Western was forbidden in the wake of the Cultural Revolution.

Li Cunxin, Mao's Last Dancer Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin. Photo supplied.

When I was selected by Madame Mao’s cultural advistors to attend the Beijing Dance Academy, 90 percent of the time the pianists would play very simple Chinese folk music or Revolutionary music. With frappésor jetés, any 2/4-rhythm music, they...

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