"Never Twenty One" by Smaïl Kanouté / Compagnie Vivons! (France)

  • Sat, Sep 30, 2023 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM
  • PS21 Open-Air Pavilion Theater

    2980 New York 66
    Chatham, New York 12037
Ticket Price $10.00-$35.00 Buy Tickets

Smaïl Kanouté’s Never Twenty One is a lament, a tribute, and a protest. Its title echoes the hashtag #Never21 and refers to the countless Black men who have lost their lives to gun violence before their twenty-first birthdays. Through evocative, urban-inflected movements that interlace elements of krump, popping, baile funk, and passinho into contemporary dance idioms, the piece pays homage to young Black men in New York, Rio de Janeiro, and Johannesburg who have died from shootings. 


On a darkened stage, three men, in black but with their bare arms and torsos emblazoned with words spoken by victims’ families—Gang . . . Guns . . . Glock and others—expressions of rage, remembrance, sorrow, and grief. Kanouté and his fellow performers, Aston Bonaparte and Salomon Mpondo-Dicka, dance effusively yet with precision, a physically charged choreography in a wide variety of styles, with elements that range over contemporary, spiritual, modern, and street dance genres. No words are spoken, but the families’ anguish is visible in the dancers’ embodiment of the violence perpetrated on Black bodies. In its references to young lives lost, Never Twenty One has a heartbreaking specificity; as a political act, it possesses global reach.




Smaïl Kanouté graduated in 2012 with a diploma in graphic design from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. He is also a self-taught dancer who appeared in Raphaëlle Delaunay’s Bitter Sugar that same year and Radhouane El Meddeb’s Heroes, which was staged in the Panthéon in 2015. He founded Compagnie Vivons to pursue his desire to combine graphic design and dance. In addition to his choreography, he has produced short films, a number of which have been shown at the Musée d'Art Contemporain in Lyon and Paris’ Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP). 


Never Twenty One is the first of a three-part series. The second, Yasuke Korosan, explores hybridized African-Japanese identity through the story of a slave-turned-samurai who became the personal bodyguard of Oda Nobunaga (1534–1582), the first “Great Unifier” of Japan, who overthrew the Ashikaga Shogunate in 1573. The final project, Sô Ava, is an inquiry into how voodoo evolved and adapted when it was transplanted from Africa to the US. Each member of the series is developed as a live, choreographic work as well as a film.




Building the foundations for your own freestyle, different aspects of freestyle hip-hop will be explored through exercises and short basic choreographic phrases. Participants will experiment with how fluidity, dissociation and slowness break down into several forms to feed our vocabulary. 



Presented as part of the worldwide celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop. Never Twenty One and An Immigrant Story are part of Villa Albertine 2023 Dance Season, a program of residencies for 10 France-based choreographers in the United States with research themes as different as new trends of urban dances, the body as an archive, among others, in dialogue with professionals and communities to develop future collaboration.




Date & Time

Sat, Sep 30, 2023 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

Venue Details

PS21 Open-Air Pavilion Theater

2980 New York 66
Chatham, New York 12037 PS21 Open-Air Pavilion Theater
PS21: Performance Spaces for the 21st Century

Established in Chatham, NY in 2006, PS21 supports innovative performing artists and creators and introduces their work to a broader audience, while also providing the surrounding region with opportunities for arts engagement regardless of economic status, cultural background, and age.


Five acres of PS21's 100+ acres are developed; the rest are meadows and woodlands. Situated near the theater are the Dance Barn, a rehearsal and performance venue, and two artists’ residences accommodating sixteen individuals. The PS21 property is also host to the Chatham Farm Animal Rescue. PS21's new theater and rural campus are important resources for both visiting artists and the community, optimized for the public's enjoyment and to encourage citizen expression and participation. 


The 350-seat theater is a state-of-the-art, green facility offering resident makers and performers the tools and flexibility for successful innovation and collaboration in the development of sophisticated multi-media work. Few other US facilities are able to provide this level of technical support. PS21 operates year-round, supporting performances by and residencies for dancers, choreographers, musicians, composers, actors and creators. The summer season is PS21's public highlight, during which a full calendar of performances is augmented with a myriad of events and workshops, many of which are free of charge and involve community collaboration with the gifted artists in residence.


PS21 will take photos of this event for use in social media and on our website. The photos sometimes include audiences. Your attendance at this performance indicates you consent to appear in PS21 photography. If you would prefer not to appear in any photos, please let a staff member know, and we will be glad to accommodate your request.

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