Updated: Feb 18
She Defines the Company Spirit
Her face and extraordinary lines may be a familiar sight! You are looking at the face of Alonzo King Lines Ballet, Adji Cissoko who was featured on the cover of Dance Magazine in 2018.
Welcome to Bird in the World Blog!
In this new interview series, we explore the mindset of a professional performer and the roads which led there. Adji is the premier dancer of Alonzo King Lines Ballet based out in the great city of San Francisco.
Lines is one of, if not the most, actively touring dance companies in the world. This might make Adji one of the most fascinating performers of our time. To know more about her and her travels, visit her Instagram@adjicissoko.
Thank you for sharing, Adji Cissoko!
So, let’s start with the basics, at what age did you start to dance and after how many years of serious training were you offered your first job or professional opportunity?
AC: I started dancing when I was 7, at a ballet academy in Munich. I studied there for 11 years before getting a scholarship with JKO (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School) at ABT (American Ballet Theater) where I spent my last year of training. I then joined the National Ballet of Canada when I was 19!
Amazing and in that time can you estimate how many auditions you attended? How many times were you rejected?
AC: I got lot of rejections... probably around 10 before I got a few offers and after some deliberation decided on NBOC (National Ballet of Canada).
How did your first job compare to the dream job you envisioned yourself getting? Did you eventually dance with your desired company?
AC: I never had a dream company in particular but if I did my first job would’ve been it.
Perfect. So, of all the triumphs and successes in your career, can you pinpoint a “break-out” moment or performance when everything seemed to change after that?
AC: I think there were a few over the years but the catalyst was when I joined Lines Ballet .
Right, and did you know it was a defining career moment at the time?
AC: I realized after a few weeks working with Alonzo King that my understanding of dance and movement had started changing, or better, expanding . I suddenly realized how much more to dance there was than I previously thought.
That must have been a great feeling. Before getting to that point there must have been some tough times too though, right? Do you have any personal mantras or habits you could share with us which kept you motivated?
AC: I didn’t have any specific ones but I think for me personally, having a strong support system of family and friends was always helpful and important to me,especially during hard times
When did you finally feel secure and confident in your career as a performer? What contributed to those feelings of assurity?
Plain and simple, haha! Looking back, what has been the greatest height or performance of your career?
AC: That’s a tough one. I’m blessed in the sense that new career highlights arise as I progress through my career. That’s part of what’s so great about this industry.
On the flip side then, can you tell us about at least one MAJOR set back in your early career?
AC: Not winning the Prix de Lausanne seemed like the worst thing that could possibly happen to me at the time, but of course looking back at it now, I just shake my head laughing because I know that wasn’t important... also at the time, not being able to perform certain roles that I was understudying in the corps felt like a set back but honestly now that I look back none of it really was anything major.
That’s such a great way of looking at things. So what would you say you are most proud of?
AC: To be living my dream every day
Can’t get much better than that. And what was necessary for you, personally, to achieve your career in dance?
AC: Hard work and commitment.
I think that’s one thing which will always be the case however, a lot is changing in the dance world. Are there any things you have noticed change in the industry in the last 5 to 10 years?
AC: it’s constantly evolving - one big change is the availability of different skin colored ballet shoes and tights !
Overall would you say you were optimistic about today’s dance opportunities and what the future of our industry holds?
AC: I think the audience is becoming more and more interested in seeing new things, which allows dancers to be creative and experiment with choreographing. Freelancing is also becoming more popular… people aren’t sticking as rigidly to traditional careers in dance companies
Mmm absolutely. Of all the things you've seen and dancers you've known, are there any secrets to making it? Do you have any top tips?
AC: Haha not really. Trust and believing in yourself is always key and not shying away from hard work because there’s always more in us than we think - so let it out!
Thank you Adji Cissoco for sharing your unique perspective! I really believe sharing our stories brings us closer to those we share our art with. Wishing you all well!
Connect with Adji Cissoco at her new website: https://zamdo.de/adji
Follow @birdinthworld on Instagram