Review: ‘(In)Security: Or, Jack and Nikki Do the Cold War Tango’ at The Kennedy Center

Memorial Day this year coincided to the day with the 100th anniversary of the birth of President John F. Kennedy. To commemorate the occasion, The Kennedy Center put on a full weekend of events including (In)Security: Or, Jack and Nikki Do the Cold War Tango, commissioned by The Kennedy Center from Company | E, a dance company that pursues a mission of cultural diplomacy through the arts.

The Cold War Tango is primarily a multimedia ballet, conceived, written and directed by Company | E Co-Artistic Director Paul Gordon Emerson, with new music by Gavin Stewart, mingled with existing US and Russian songs, and audio and video clips of speeches by Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

The dancers of (In)Security: Or, Jack and Nikki Do the Cold War Tango. Photo by Jati Lindsay.

In Cold War Tango, the most perilous days of the Cold War – and the diplomatic and political interactions between Kennedy and Khrushchev – are explored through dance. Using The Kennedy Center’s vast Grand Foyer to connect the North and South Millennium Stages, The Cold War Tango tells the story simultaneously from the Soviet perspective (South Stage) and US perspective (North Stage). The result was a creatively constructed, thought-provoking reminder of the most heated days of the Cold War, which coincided with Kennedy’s presidency.

Upon entering the Grand Foyer, one is struck not only by its beauty, but also its size; the massive length of lush, red carpet soon becomes a metaphor for the physical and psychological space between the US and Soviet Union during The Cold War. No seating is offered to viewers of this performance. Instead, audience members are invited to wander between the stages and view the program from all angles. The dancers, we are informed, will utilize the wide expanse between the stages as geographic points of conflict: Cuba lying closer to the US stage, Berlin to the Soviet stage, and an elevated stage smack in the middle which I assume represents the 1961…

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