by Adji Cissoko
I truly believe that me being a dancer is no coinci-
dence. As Martha Graham put it, “I did not choose:
I was chosen to be a dancer.”
I started dancing before I could even stand,
as my mom likes to tell me. I grew up in Munich,
where my dad used to give concerts on the week-
ends playing a Senegalese stringed instrument called
the kora. Whenever he practiced at home, I started
rocking back and forth, enjoying the rhythm.
Once I was introduced to the world of ballet,
there was no stopping me. Most of my teachers
were strict Russian Vaganova teachers. My parents
questioned why on earth I wanted to spend all my
free time being yelled at, but I didn’t see it that way.
I found pleasure in the hard work. I loved when my
teachers lifted my leg up all the way to my ear, only
to let go a second later and yell at me as it dropped
down rapidly. I learned quickly that once you
achieve your goals you set new ones even higher.
Sometimes I feel like the older I get, the more I
;nd to work on, and I wonder why. Shouldn’t I be
perfect by now, or at least have less to worry about?
But I ;nd new things to improve because I have
come to a higher level of ;ne-tuning, of understand-
ing my own body.
Being at LINES opened my eyes to a whole
new kind of awareness. Instead of focusing on
matching the dancer in front of me, I now get to
focus on exploring space, and on strengthening my
attention to every body part and their many ways of
moving. Working with Alonzo King has shown me
how much more there is to dance. I spent so much
time using dance to speak that I didn’t take enough
time to listen. One often has a clear idea about how
the steps should be executed, but by listening, I’ve
learned that there are usually many more possibilities. Sometimes the in-between movement is more
interesting than the end result.
To ;nesse your dancing, you want to ;nd gen-
erosity within yourself so you can give and share.
That’s the beautiful part of ballet as an art form—we
share it with the audience. We take them to places
they might not have been to before.
One of the things I love the most about my
profession is the ability to inspire. Inspiring people
to ;nd the dancer within themselves, because it is
inside of each and every one! ■
Dancer with Alonzo King
“To finesse your
dancing, find generosity
within yourself so you