Interview with Adji Cissoko
PRINCIPAL DANCER - ALONZO KING LINES BALLET
Born and raised in Munich – Germany, Adji Cissoko is a principal dancer at Alonzo King LINES Ballet. At the age of 18 years old, she left Germany and went to New York to attend the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre, before joining the National Ballet of Canada in 2010. Since 2014 when Adji joined LINES Ballet, she has performed many leading roles and was invited to many galas worldwide. As she’s part of the company’s outreach program, she has given multiple dance masterclasses all around the world. In parallel to her career as a professional dancer, Adji is a certified health and life coach since 2020.
During your learning years, before becoming a professional dancer, what was your biggest challenge?
Before becoming a professional dancer, I remember my biggest challenge was to appreciate and love myself.
I was constantly trying to fit in and I wanted to be like everyone else … But growing up, I now have a completely different mindset.
I learn how to embrace my individuality, and my learning years of dancing helped me build a strong self-confidence!
Looking back, I’m very proud of my evolution in terms of self-esteem.
Can you share one of your favorite memories from the stage?
It’s actually really hard to pinpoint just one favorite moment on stage … To be honest, every time I get to be on stage and perform, it feels extremely special and unique! But if I had to choose one, I would say my first time back on stage post-pandemic was a really special moment for me. It felt kind of familiar and new at the same time. The passion and emotion on stage were even more tangible than usually.
I was never more appreciative of being able to do what I love the most, especially after the difficult time we’ve been through as professional dancers. I think that this is a stage memory that I will remember for a long time.
Do you have any rituals you do before taking the stage?
As you probably know, I’m currently part of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet and we do have a group ritual before taking the stage. A few minutes before the show starts, we are in the habits of circling up: we just stand there holding each other’s arms unifying collectively! It’s always a beautiful and motivating moment of sharing, which allows us to benefit from the strength and energy of each other as a tight-knit group.
Of all the roles you've danced, which ballet required you to do the most work?
I guess that all ballets require a lot of work really, but the kind of work may differ from one to the other. For example, sometimes I have to try a lot of technical challenging parts… And others I have to get myself to a certain mental stage to perform my best... Both is always required but I would say that some ballets require more of a physical preparation while others ask for a specific mindset.
When dancing a pas de deux, what is the determining factor in creating a relationship of trust with your partner?
For me there is not one but three determining factors for building a trust relationship with a partner: practice, familiarity and last but not least communication. It’s very important to train a lot with your duo in order to be familiar with him or her and create a strong connection, physically and emotionally. It can be scary to literally put yourself in your partner’s hands but communication is key. All those elements will help you to grow trust, but it can take some time.