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A Trilogy of Dance Films by Smaïl Kanouté


smaïl kanouté

Spurrier Hall, Dance Theater
Spurrier Hall
Rochester, NY, US 14611

February 11, 2022 | 2pm


On Friday, February 11 at 2pm, the University of Rochester’s Program of Dance and Movement will present three dance films from Smaïl Kanouté that explore the impact of colonialism and the persistence of ancestral rites as an affirmation of identity.

The Trilogy features Never Twenty One 21, a short film co-directed with the ex-collective Racine. Staged in 2021, it is an homage to those who will never get to see the age of 21, their lives being taken because of gun violence in the United States. Born out of the Black Lives Matter movement, the expression Never 21 castigates the early deaths that plague the United States. Real testimonies accompany three dancers who breathe life into the words of the victims and their families. The rage and the grief over lost loved ones are embodied through different physical and musical energies. The subject is explored in greater depth through different territories: Rio de Janeiro, Soweto, and the Bronx, New York. Tattooed on the three dancers’ bodies, the names of the deceased weave through the moving muscles as a way to engrave forever the curse of the number 21, the void left by these lost lives, their memories, and their words. 

Throughout the second short film, Smaïl Kanouté follows the steps of Yasuke Kurosan, an African slave who arrived in the land of the rising sun at the end of the 16th century and was granted the exceptional status of samurai, making history as the first foreign samurai in Japanese history. Smaïl Kanouté grasps this tale and questions the creation of self when one is multicultural. His choreographic writing conveys the transformation of the bent body of the slave into the proud and upright body of the samurai, through an encounter between African dance and the art of Bushido (the Samurai code of honor). Directed by Abdou Diouri, this 15-minute film is the starting point for a choreographic work on stage for 2022. 

In SO AVA, Smaïl Kanouté returns to his African roots by retracing the path of the slaves who, through their forced exile, spread their beliefs and voodoo rituals across the world. Filmed in Benin, this short film enhances the ties that link us with our ancestors. Intrigued by the invisible and deeply convinced that when we dance, we never dance alone, Smaïl Kanouté immersed himself for a week in this enigmatic and mysterious community to learn its dances and voodoo philosophy, moving to purge the often-painful stories of the African diaspora. 

The screening at the University of Rochester will be followed by a Zoom Q&A with Smaïl Kanouté. 

The event is presented by the Program of Dance and Movement at the University of Rochester with the support of Villa Albertine in partnership with the French Embassy and FACE Foundation, as part of the promotion of Dance Films from France, the Office for Community Leadership in connection with DANC305 Dance and Interdependent Community, and the College Diversity Roundtable. 

About Smaïl Kanouté  

Born in 1986, Smaïl Kanouté is a French-Malian graphic designer, dancer, silkscreen artist, and graduate of ENSAD. He lives and works in Paris. Among many projects, he has worked in fashion with the designer Xuly Bet and performed with Raphaëlle Delauney, Radhouane El Meddeb, and others. Kanouté created his own company, Compagnie Vivons, and has since created several performance pieces including Les Actes du Désert. In visual arts, he has frequently collaborated with the street and visual artist Philippe Baudelocque, and for Tino Sehgal’s major exhibition ‘These Associations’ at the Palais de Tokyo in 2016. 


About The University of Rochester 

The screenings will be played at the Spurrier Hall at the University of Rochester. Spurrier is the home of a gymnasium, the Department of Dance and Movement’s dance studio, music practice rooms, the practice carillon, student organization offices and storage, the music rehearsal room, and meeting rooms. Spurrier is connected to Susan B. Anthony Hall by the tunnel system. It serves needs as an academic space during the day and serves as a hub of student organization activity in the evenings and on the weekends. 


About the Dance Films Catalogue, a Villa Albertine program  

Created in 2021 by Villa Albertine in partnership with the French Embassy in the United States and with support from the Institut français and the French Ministry of Culture, the Dance Films Catalogue features films and documentaries by and with artists of various backgrounds. 

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