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

  • PS21 Open-Air Pavilion Theater

    2980 New York 66
    Chatham, New York 12037
Ticket Price $10.00-$35.00 This event is now over

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. 

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement’s #Never21 hashtag, French-Malian choreographer and dancer Smaïl Kanouté’s deeply resonant piece—making its U.S. premiere—pays tribute to young people of color who have lost their lives to gun violence all over the world before reaching the age of 21. The performance, separated into three segments, focuses on the senseless deaths of young Black youth in New York, Johannesburg, and Rio de Janeiro.

View the program

Excerpts of powerful testimonies from victims’ family members are transcribed on the dancers’ bodies, combining dance and visual art. The dancers’ intense movement draws on contemporary and intuitive dance, krump, popping, and baile funk in recounting the stories of many broken lives.


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 is a French-Malian multifaceted artist based in Paris. A “choreo-graphist,” as he calls himself, he is a graphic and silkscreen designer, a visual artist, and a professional dancer.


His numerous collaborations in fashion, design, video and performing arts reflect his prolific creativity. With Company Vivons!—founded in 2016—Kanouté develops performance projects, more personal choreographic artworks, dance-videos, and short films. His current works investigate the impact of colonialism and the persistence of ancestral rites as asserting identity, in the light of the Afro-futurist movement.


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.



PLUS Hip-hop Freestyle Workshop with Salomon Mpondo-Dicka SIGN UP HERE

Compagnie Vivons! (France)
Friday, September 29, 2023 at 4 PM
Duration 2 hrs
Kinderhook Memorial Library


Starting from the participants’ own techniques, practices, and approaches, Salomon Mpondo-Dicka’s workshop is an introduction to building a foundation in individual freestyle dance. Different aspects of freestyle hip-hop will be explored through exercises and short basic choreographic phrases, both solo and in groups. Participants will experiment with how fluidity, dissociation, and slowness break down into several forms to feed a collective vocabulary. The culmination of the workshop will focus on the assimilation of this new material into a personal freestyle creation.

  • Open to all who have any experience of dance or movement in any genre – hip-hop experience is not required. 
  • Ages 15 and up.

Salomon Mpondo-Dicka aka Bidjé De Rosa was born in Toulouse, France. He has worked with Collectif (La) Horde / Arthur Harel, Cie Massala / Fouad Boussouf, Swaggers / Marion Motin or DC Vortex / Hugo “Yugson” Lumengo, and collaborates with visual artists and musicians. His work feeds on krump, hip hop, house, and contemporary dance, and straddles the world of performing arts as well as battles and the hip hop underground.



Presented as part of the worldwide celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop, the performances of Never Twenty One by Smaïl Kanouté and An Immigrant's Story by Wanjiru Kamuyu are part of Villa Albertine 2023 Dance SeasonA year-long celebration of the art of dance from inception to performance.




Venue Details

PS21 Open-Air Pavilion Theater

2980 New York 66
Chatham, New York 12037 PS21 Open-Air Pavilion Theater
PS/21 Inc

Support PS21

Even in the best of times, ticket sales cover only a fraction of PS21’s costs; therefore, we rely on you to continue supporting our endeavors. Please consider making a donation today.


About PS21

A vibrant center for contemporary performance in the Hudson Valley, PS21 “presents work that challenges and invites” (The New York Times): adventurous productions by leading and emerging American and international artists in music, dance, and theater, and visionaries creating entirely new genres. On our open-air Pavilion Theater stage, across our expansive, unspoiled grounds, and in the diverse surrounding communities, PS21 cultivates and presents productions that transcend aesthetic boundaries and revitalize existing artistic languages and grammars. Throughout the year, we host developmental residencies for dancers, musicians, actors, and creators of original, even unclassifiable new work. Rooted in community collaboration, PS21’s programming engages creatively with critical global and social issues. It is a mecca for innovative and original artistic voices, a destination for performance that can be experienced nowhere else in the region. PS21’s Pavilion Theater is a green-energy marvel surrounded by 100 acres of unspoiled meadows, trails, and woodlands that are a haven to wildlife and visitors across the region.  Integrated into our unspoiled campus, the theater embodies our commitments to the public: open, inviting, and optimized for their enjoyment and encouraging citizen expression and participation.


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.

Find more PS/21 Inc Events and Performing & Visual Arts events in Chatham