Adji Cissoko’s Summer as a Swan

By Adji Cissoko

Alonzo always tells us about how strong the mind is. So this summer I put it to the test…and found that he was right!

It all began with the announcement that LINES Ballet would be off for the whole summer. My first thought was amazing, a three month vacation! But the next second I realized, oh no, I won’t be working.

It turned out that the National Ballet of Canada, where I had danced prior to joining LINES, was presenting Swan Lake during my time off. Since Swan Lake is a big production involving a whole corps de ballet, they were happy to hire me to perform with them. And just like that I was going to be a swan in a tutu again…


During my two week break in May, I flew to Toronto to attend rehearsals and also visit my boyfriend. Even though it had been three and a half years since I had worked with the National Ballet, everything felt very familiar. I was excited to see all my friends and to get started on putting the ballet together. Little did I know, they were way past putting the work together. They had already been running the ballet for more than a week!

My teacher didn’t seem too concerned and told me to watch the first time around and then jump in for the next run through. “It’s your old spot…it’ll come back quick,” she told me with a smile. Even though I didn’t believe her at the time, I have to admit she was right. The next day I did all my parts. I had been watching the video for hours the night before, learning steps and counts trying to memorize which gaps to go through and which people to follow in circles around. Because that’s the thing with dancing in a corps de ballet, the focus is on staying in line and being exactly the same as the person in front of you. It’s challenging but impressive to watch when done well. After the first stressful rehearsals, time just flew by and I had to return to San Francisco to rehearse with LINES Ballet for a few days before performing at the de Young as part of a special event and the official end of our season. While I was back on the west coast performing Art Songs, Swan Lake premiered in Toronto.


I knew that this was going to be a stressful period of time for me with all the traveling and performing here and there, but I was mentally prepared – or so I thought!

Immediately after the performance in San Francisco I said my goodbyes, biked home, cleaned my room, packed my bag, and after 2 hours of sleep, headed to the airport to catch the first flight to Toronto. While sitting in an Uber, I decide to check in online and pull up my itinerary on my phone. At first I thought I must be looking at the wrong one since the flight date said May 16th and it was clearly June 16th. But unfortunately, I realized soon that I wasn’t mistaken, but had booked my flight for the wrong month. That’s when I wanted to cry! I was overtired and not in any position to deal with those kind of problems, so I called my boyfriend. After a calming phone call, a rebooking, and a layover I finally make it to Toronto and was asleep as soon as I reached my bed.

When my alarm rang the next morning, I was convinced it was a mistake. It couldn’t possibly be time to get up yet – hello jet lag! That’s when I had to do some serious mind control. I told myself my body felt fine and that I wasn’t tired but completely ready for a double show day. And I was! First off, we had company class on stage in front of an audience. Not my first choice after getting off a plane, but there was nothing I could do about it. My willpower worked. I felt energized and just focused on dancing. The matinee was stressful since it was my first time on stage with the company but by the evening show I felt more relaxed and started to enjoy myself. The following week flew by with sold out shows and an excited audience each night. It’s only now that I’m finished that I realize how much I’m looking forward to a break. First thing scheduled is a two hour massage!!


Read more of Adji’s reflections in her blog: