Adji Cissoko Headlines the Star-Studded 2023 Vail Dance Festival

July 21, 2023

This summer, Vail Dance Festival celebrates its 35th year of performances and residencies. Running July 28 through August 7, the 2023 festival features an exciting lineup of performing artists and includes no fewer than 15 principal dancers from American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, and more. Alonzo King LINES Ballet artist Adji Cissoko is this year’s artist-in-residence.

BalletX, Martha Graham Dance Company, DanceAspen, and L.A. Dance Project will each return to Vail as performing companies; tap dance and live music group Music From The Sole joins them, making its festival debut. In addition to the performance lineup, Vail’s educational events include 11 hosted conversations and 23 master classes with Cissoko and other festival artists.

A wide-angle shot shows a packed audience attending the Vail Dance Festival at an outdoor theater. The lighting is pinkish-purple, and a group of dancers perform onstage.
Vail Dance Festival at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Photo by Chris Kendig, courtesy VDF.

Though Cissoko has performed at Vail twice with LINES, this will be her first time at the festival as a solo artist. So to be this year’s artist-in-residence, she tells Pointe, is a huge honor supercharged by excitement and nervousness.

“I don’t think it really started to sink in until people started congratulating me,” she says. “And then I realized how many things I’ll be doing!”

In addition to leading master classes, choreographing a premiere, dancing in a new work by Kyle Abraham, and bringing some of her favorite LINES repertoire to the stage, Cissoko will step out of her contemporary ballet comfort zone by performing two iconic classical pieces: the “White Swan” pas de deux from Swan Lake, and Michel Fokine’s “Dying Swan” solo. But what she most looks forward to is creating and performing a new work in collaboration with her cousin, Youba Cissokho, who plays the kora, a traditional West African string instrument. Cissoko’s family, including her father, has a long history of playing the kora, so she is excited to lean into her family roots and its legacy in Senegal.

As the festival approaches, Cissoko aims to keep an open mind. “I’m allowing myself to go for the experience and enjoy whatever happens, rather than just focusing on the end results,” she says. “I just want a moment where I can look back at everything and feel proud of the whole process, knowing that I enjoyed all of it.”

Two photos shown side-by-side in a collage. On the left,
(Left) Andrea Yorita and Shawn Cusseaux of BalletX. Photo by Skye Schmidt, courtesy Vail Dance Festival. (Right) Robbie Fairchild and Lauren Lovette. Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy VDF.

Check out the full list of individual performers and choreographers attending the 2023 Vail Dance Festival below.

Individual Dancers


  • Kyle Abraham
  • Lil Buck
  • Adji Cissoko
  • Larry Keigwin
  • Matthew Neenan
  • Justin Peck
  • Tiler Peck
  • Caili Quan
  • Jamar Roberts
  • Melissa Toogood