Revisiting Pointe's Past Cover Stars: Adji Cissoko (August/September 2011)

We revisited some of Pointe's past cover stars for their take on how life—and ballet—has changed.


Adji Cissoko, August/September 2011

Then: Corps de ballet dancer, National Ballet of Canada

Now: Alonzo King LINES Ballet company member

Cissoko, in a teal halter leotard and short black shorts and pointe shoes, leans back in a jaunty pose, smiling on the cover of Pointe, against a tan background with black text.

On being on Pointe's cover: "My Pointe cover was during my first year in the corps at National Ballet of Canada, my first job. I remember feeling super-excited and grateful about the cover, but also a little intimidated. Camera people came during class and I was still so new that I felt a little embarrassed to take that attention away from principals who had been there for years and years. Everyone was very supportive, though."

Cissoko, in a pale sparkly dress and pointe shoes, extends one leg high in the air in a modern position against a gray background.

Adji Cissoko

RJ Muna, Courtesy Alonzo King LINES Ballet

What's changed since then: "When I joined LINES Ballet in 2014, I went from a 70-person company to a 12-person company, and LINES is more contemporary. We work with more choreographers that set pieces on us, so we're actually part of the creation process. Things started to open up for me. I never knew before that dancers could express what they feel or want to say. Worldwide, things have expanded for dancers. We're not as narrow-minded anymore, in many aspects—including skin color. Black dancers are more supported. There are black and brown pointe shoes, which may seem like a little thing, but as a whole, dance has expanded, and I think that's great to see."

Advice for dancers: "Don't be scared to talk to your director and ask questions. After three years at NBoC, I felt stuck trying to be like everyone else when I clearly wasn't. I was the tallest and I'm so long and quite different. I talked to my director Karen Kain and she agreed, explaining that most of the time she didn't feel like the rep was a fit for me. It was actually her idea for me to audition for LINES. When Alonzo offered me the job midway through the season, she was really excited for me. But it could have gone many different ways. I could have just stayed at NBoC not knowing, still waiting for something to happen. By asking questions, we get answers that will help us make decisions for ourselves and our careers."

Latest Posts


Dean Barucija, Courtesy Lopes Gomes

Chloé Lopes Gomes Speaks Out About Racial Harassment at Staatsballett Berlin

In November, the French dancer Chloé Lopes Gomes went public with accusations of institutional racism against Staatsballett Berlin, first reported by the German magazine Der Spiegel. In the article, several anonymous dancers confirm her account. Lopes Gomes, 29, who trained in Marseille and at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, danced for the Ballet de l'Opéra de Nice and Béjart Ballet Lausanne before joining Staatsballett Berlin as a corps de ballet member in 2018, under then co-directors Johannes Öhman and Sasha Waltz. After the company told her in October that her contract, which ends in July, would not be renewed, she shared her story with Pointe.


I didn't know I was the first Black female dancer at Staatsballett Berlin when I joined the company in 2018. I learned that from German journalists who came to interview me almost immediately. I grew up in a mixed-race family—my mother was French, my father from Cape Verde—and I was educated to believe that we all have the same opportunities.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

NYCB's Maria Kowroski Reflects on the Challenges, Joys and Mysteries of Balanchine’s "Mozartiana"

The first time I was called to learn Mozartiana, I didn't think I would actually get to do it. It's a coveted ballerina role in the company, and I was still early in my career. But I got to dance it once or twice, and then not again for many years. The ballet isn't in our repertoire that often, so each time we've performed it I've been at a different level as a person and as an artist.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Melina Nastazia, Courtesy Jessica Flynn

Former “Baby Ballerina” Jessica Flynn on Her YA Novel and the Secrets to Surviving in Ballet

Most young dancers dream about how Jessica Flynn's ballet career began. After performing several lead roles at School of American Ballet's Workshop and winning the prestigious Mae L. Wien Award in 2002, she got an apprenticeship with New York City Ballet at age 16 and her corps contract less than a year later. Some soloist roles followed, and she appeared to have a bright future at the company. But just before her three-year mark, she left NYCB and never performed professionally again.

Flynn is now a ballet teacher, a holistic health coach for performing artists, a candidate for a master's in social work, a wife and a new mom. She's also an author. In 2016, she published Dancing in Time, the fictional tale of Charlie, a 37-year-old marketing executive who can't shake the failure of her ballet career. She wakes up one morning in her 17-year-old body, and has the chance to redo her career with the benefit of hindsight. The book deals with themes of extreme competition, body image and weight, disempowering relationships, and how all of these factors can suck the joy out of dancing—yet it's surprisingly humorous and entertaining.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks