After winning a full scholarship to jacqueline Kennedy onassis school of american Ballet theater, Adji ciccoko’s career to ballet stardom had just begun. Born and raised in Munich, Adji is now Currently a principle dancer at LINES ballet after years of dancing in the national ballet of canada . We spoke To Adji About how moments in her life connected her to ballet dance , How she dealt with rejection over the years, the hardships she has faced as a black dancer and got her advice for others who want to pursue their dreams!
Tell us a little about growing up and what moments in your life connected you to the life of ballet dance?
Growing up I danced a lot around the house while my dad played the kora , a west African string instrument. When I was 6 years old I saw the school doctor , a routine procedure in Germany before starting elementary school. During the assessment which consisted of me drawing a snake and speaking at the same time,I seemed to struggle. My parents were advised to enroll me in dance lessons to improve my coordinating and spacial awareness . That’s how I initially started taking ballet and jazz classes. I loved the classes and both my teachers advised my parents to let me audition for the ballet academy Munich. It took some convincing but in the end I was allowed to audition and got into the free school program with professional ballet training. Nobody in my family knew much about ballet so it was new to all of us . I had never seen a ballet until then . My first time watching a ballet was the nutcracker in Russia with my grandparents. I fell in love with the acting and effortlessly moving to music !
As a professional dancer how do you care for your body and support it to show up for you?
I’ve learned to listen and respect my body . If it’s signaling to me that it’s over worked by aching I get massages and bodywork . I love taking baths ,especially on tour when we travel around on buses and planes and then do shows the following day. It can be very challenging in the body ,so it’s important to give back after a long day of work or a show . Sometimes it’s as simple as laying down and breathing into tense areas just to show your aching muscles some love and gratitude!
You must have attended many auditions over the years. How have you dealt with rejection in your life?
I’ve learned to trust that there’s a bigger plan and picture in place for me ,that I may not always be able to see or understand yet. Not getting a certain job might mean it wasn’t the one to bring you joy and happiness in the end and that the right one is still waiting.
The key is to keep working hard and believing in yourself!
What is one pivotal moment in your career that has taught you a lesson you still hold on to today?
When I was dancing at the National ballet of Canada I was casted to dance second detail by William Forsythe,but when we got closer to performing it ,I was told I wasn’t ready and got taken out of the piece . I was devastated ! It turned out to be a blessing and an opportunity for a soloist role. I ended up being able to get private coaching for lilac fairy in sleeping beauty while the company was gone performing and ended up performing it due to enough rehearsal time to get me well prepared! So looking back at it , I learned that one negative thing can lead to a positive outcome and that I do believe that things happen for a reason.
What inspires you and drives you forward as an artist?
I’m inspired by my colleagues on a daily basis . Seeing them explore and grow in front of my eyes. Their kindness and willingness to push further and grow pushes me forward and reminds me of why art is so important!
Could you speak on the hardships you've faced in your career as a Black dancer? How did you deal with these issues?
During my audition period as a young dancer I was told multiple times that it would be impossible to find work in New York due to my height and skin color . Those comments weighed on me ! I would talk to my family about it and immediately realize how insignificant these comments were. Nobody knows what I can do and achieve better than myself and nobody can actually see the future ,so the only thing I can control is working hard and letting the future unfold while trusting my intuition.
Along with dancing professional ballet you are also a health and life coach. What are some of your top wellness tips ?
My tip is to turn up the listening . Our body is full of wisdom but often we choose not to listen to the signals. Taking time for yourself and being kind to your body can make a big difference. Our thoughts have a big impact on how we react to everything from food to interactions with other people.
What advice would you give to those wanting to pursue their dreams?
Keep going as long as you find joy in what you do! Take a moment to think about why that goal is your dream and keep reminding yourself of those reasons in times of hardship!