Queensland Ballet Forever Dinner
Queensland Ballet Chair, Mr Brett Clark AM; Artistic Director, Mr Li Cunxin AO and Ballet Mistress, Mary Li; Executive Director, Ms Dilshani Weerasinghe; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.
I begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the lands around Brisbane, the Turrbal and Jagera people, and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging, and to any First Nations people with us this evening.
It’s just five months since Li made the surprise announcement that, due to serious health issues and Mary’s continuing treatment, he would be retiring as Artistic Director of Queensland Ballet by the end of this year.
We immediately understood what a difficult decision it was for such a visionary leader to step away after amazing 11 years at the helm. In that time, Li – with the unwavering support of Mary – has helped Queensland Ballet cement its place as one of the best ballet companies in the world.
Not only did he create an amazing ballet company, he also adopted a strategy of community participation – a commitment that has led to more than 30,000 Queenslanders engaging with the company each year through education programs, regional tours, community dance classes, school holiday camps, and school workshops.
Those activities mean that, irrespective of age, location or ability, Queenslanders can enjoy the physical, social and emotional benefits of dance.
Most importantly, they are benefits that will endure; it is indeed a ‘forever’ contribution to the life of Queenslanders, and I congratulate and thank the company and the donors and sponsors who have shared Li’s vision.
Their generosity will not only enable these programs to continue but will support their expansion and the development of exciting new initiatives which will enrich Queensland lives for many years to come.
Retirement in business or the professions is usually a welcome retreat from a busy life of long hours, meetings, balance sheets, and problem solving – it’s something we can all understand from our own experience.
Artists, on the other hand, rarely retire because their art and creativity are a fundamental part of who they are.
Graeme and I, together with everyone here, will certainly be watching with great interest as Li’s creative spirit continues to inspire him, and while we all wonder what he’ll do next, I suspect we will not have to wait long to find out!