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
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."
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."