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Duke Arts Presents

Never Twenty One

Thursday, October 5, 2023 | 7:30 pm

Rubenstein Arts Center | von der Heyden Studio Theater

“Smaïl Kanouté’s dance production is a lament, a tribute and a protest. In its reference to individual lives, Never Twenty One has a heartbreaking specificity; as a political act, it has a global reach.” – The Dance Centre – Vancouver

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement’s #Never21 hashtag, French-Malian choreographer and dancer Smaïl Kanouté’s deeply resonant piece 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. Excerpts of powerful testimonies from victims’ family members are transcribed on the dancers’ bodies, combining dance and visual art. The dancers’ movement draws on contemporary and intuitive dance, krump, popping, and baile funk in recounting the stories of many broken lives.

Never Twenty One comes to Duke University after making its US Premiere in a FIAF co-presentation with New York Live Arts and Villa Albertine as part of the 2023 Crossing The Line Festival.


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Production Credits:

Choreographed by Smaïl Kanouté
Performed by Smaïl Kanouté, Aston Bonaparte, and Salomon Mpondo-Dicka

Producer/Manager: Cécile Pouysegur
Sound designer & manager: Paul Lajus
Light manager: Bryan Jean-Baptiste
Body painter: Luca Fiore

Executive production by Compagnie Vivons!

Co-production by Les Ateliers Médicis – Clichy sous Bois / Espace 1789 – Scène conventionnée danse – Saint Ouen, Les Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine Saint Denis / CentQuatre – Paris, and Théâtre de la Ville – Danse Élargie 2020 – Fondation d’entreprise Hermès

Support provided by Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles Ile de France / Région Ile de France, Département de la Seine-Saint-Denis, Ville de Paris, Adami, Spedidam, Caisse des Dépôts, Institut Français

The U.S. tour of Never Twenty One in September 23 is possible with the support of FACE Contemporary Theater, a program of Villa Albertine and FACE Foundation, in partnership with the French Embassy in the United States, with support from The Ford Foundation, Institut français, the French Ministry of Culture, and private donors.

Presented in partnership with the Center for French and Francophone Studies at Duke University and the Duke Dance Program.


Teaser NEVER TWENTY ONE - Création 2021 / Compagnie Vivons

"But as intense as it all sounds, Never Twenty One has a different, more meditative mood than you might expect. The trio of powerful dancers often feel like wandering spirits, rising above the darkness through artistic expression."