Adji Cissoko, acclaimed dancer with Alonzo King LINES Ballet, was on tour in Europe with the company when the Covid-19 pandemic struck. During the lockdown period, she has been characteristically productive. We spoke to Adji recently about managing her time away from the studio, her new creative projects, and her new social enterprise as a Health and Life Coach.
Where have you been during the lockdown, and how have you been spending your time?
I’ve been in Toronto with my boyfriend ever since the lockdown. Prior I was on tour with Lines ballet in Europe but luckily I made in to Canada just in time before the boarders closed. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my cat! My boyfriend has been working this whole time so often it’s just me and my cat at home taking classes in the living room teaching classes from the kitchen, painting, writing, and coaching! I’m very grateful for this unexpected time here showing me how life would be if I wasn’t in a long distance relationship and didn’t travel the world dancing for a living . . . maybe a sneak peak into the future!
In the video you’re wearing a traditional Sengalese dress. Can you tell us a bit about your heritage?
I’m half-German, half-Senegalese. I was born and raised in Munich, where both of my parents live, but my dad is originally from Dakar, Senegal. Growing up we visited Senegal and my family there as often as possible especially since my two half siblings were growing up there. My parents did their best to teach, educate and expose me both of their worlds. Even our weekly meal plan was split up between western cuisine for half of the week and African dishes for the rest of it! I went to Senegal over Christmas which is where I got the dress. It always feels like home being there!
BLM has put the spotlight on racial inequality in ballet. What has your experience been, and what changes would you like to see for ballet to address racial inequalities?
I definitely got lucky on my journey. If there was any discrimination against me because of the color of my skin I definitely wasn’t aware of it. But at the same time I remember people telling me constantly how hard it would be for me to find a job as a ballet dancer because of my height and my color. I didn’t let that keep me from trying and it worked out pretty great! I hope that we can work towards a world where those concerns I experienced won’t be necessary. A world where the skin color doesn’t define weather you get into a dance company or not!
You’ve recently started your life coaching practice. How do you keep yourself inspired and motivated, especially during the Covid lockdown period?
Starting my life coaching practice was a life-saver during this time! I was able to have my first clients just when my company told me we were on furlough . . . . Working with them has been a huge inspiration on so many levels! Talking about positivity with them made me channel it in my own life as well. It’s kept me happy despite all the uncertainty and it kept me motivated to get creative and be productive!
Tell us a bit about your new life and health coaching practice, how you got into it and your goals:
I always new that I wanted to help, share and inspire others. That’s one of the reasons I dance. Knowing that I probably won’t dance forever I tried to find something that would fulfill me in the same way. That’s when I discovered Health/Life coaching. I currently work with seven clients and it’s been a dream. I feel so connected to the holistic approach of coaching. My goal is to specialize in mentoring dancers which is something that’s not currently existing in most companies. In my opinion it would be really beneficial for dancers to have someone supporting them, holding them accountable and helping them achieve their goals which are the principles of my practice. Dancers could talk to me about ways to cope with with mental and physical stress, as well as anxiety before a show, for example. Questions like how to make sure I have energy throughout the whole day of rehearsing etc.
You can support Adji Cissoko’s fund for Health and Life coaching for minorities by heading to GoFundMe.