Dartmouth creation and Hop original 'Ritual of Breath' expands across NYC with dozens of community activations

In honor of the 10th anniversary of Eric Garner's killing, the Hop-produced interdisciplinary opera, The Ritual of Breath Is the Rite to Resist, is extending beyond the stage with a series of community activations in New York City in collaboration with 20+ civic partners united in resisting the ongoing theft of Black life at the hands of the state and uplifting the healing power of art and communal gathering. The series will stretch over five weeks and include concerts rooted in a range of Black musical traditions, dance and wellness sessions, interactive exhibitions, participatory performances, and curated conversations. 
The events will span June 15th through July 20th, the day following the opera's New York concert premiere as part of Lincoln Center's third annual Summer for the City festival. The majority of these free events are anchored in Staten Island and uplift the artistic voices of the place where Eric Garner lived and died. Of special note is the artisan fair featuring Staten Island artisans and businesses, which will immediately precede the opera in Damrosch Park. Additional events and details will be announced June 15.

Civic and arts partnerships 
Partners in this summer's activities include both civic and arts organizations with collaborators from across New York City—Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor, Staten Island Arts, Sing Harlem, ISSUE Project Room, Brooklyn Arts Council, The Africa Center, Staten Island Urban Center, New York Live Arts, Perelman Performing Arts Center, Ghetto Film School, That's Right Open Mic, The Movement Theater Company, joyontheedge, New York Theater Workshop, Apollo Theater and Lincoln Center's Summer for the City. Ritual of Breath was originally commissioned and produced by the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth and co-commissioned by Stanford Live. Past performances at the Hopkins Center and Stanford Live, as well as the July 19th presentation at Lincoln Center, are creatively produced by Kim Whitener/KiWi Productions and associate produced by The Flea, with additional support from Dartmouth College. 


Ritual Partners

Community is at the heart
The community activation strategy in NYC is led by Dartmouth alumnus Bryan Joseph Lee '07, founder of the creative studio CNTR ARTS, with Jahtiek Long and Sidney Erik Wright serving as Associate Community Producers. This expansive suite of events and gatherings speaks to the root causes of systemic injustice that impacted the lives of Eric Garner and his daughter Erica—central figures in the opera. They offer Black and non-Black communities alike spaces to center collective wellness, art and an ongoing commitment to the sanctity of Black lives. From its inception,  Ritual of Breath has been more than an opera, and the civic engagement in New York City builds upon a set of healing rituals developed at Dartmouth College and later at Stanford University by Co-Social Impact Directors Dr. Shamell Bell and Ms. Gwen Carr with the powerful inclusion of a group of mothers who lost their children to police violence. 
"Community is at the heart of Ritual of Breath, and that extends to the interconnected network of artists, activists and partners lending their power and voices to this moment," says Bryan Joseph Lee, Producer, Civic Partnerships and Community Activations.  "Our hope is to honor Eric and Erica's legacies, to shine a light on the systemic injustices that made their deaths possible, and to encourage everyone to witness this memorial anniversary as an opportunity to orient their souls towards joy and justice."

The origins of Ritual of Breath
Ritual of Breath was born of a collaboration by a team of Dartmouth faculty members and alumni across mediums. The opera leverages the power of music, text, dance and visual art to weave a deeply moving tapestry of sight and sound that immerses audiences fully in the powerful narrative. It adapts to each location where the work is shared, uplifting communities of color and gathering people to heal and continue resisting state-sanctioned violence against Black people. 
The work was created by Enrico Riley '95, Dartmouth alumnus and professor of Studio Arts, whose captivating paintings and drawings of Black life provide the backdrop for the opera; Jonathan Berger, professor of Music at Stanford, who composed the evocative score; and Vievee Francis, a poet and Dartmouth professor of English and Creative Writing, who crafted the powerful libretto. Joining Riley, Berger and Francis, pioneering theater artist and Dartmouth alumnus Niegel Smith  '02 directs the work, and The Flea—where Smith serves as Executive Artistic Director—is anchoring the New York City performance as associate producer. The creative team also includes Kamna Gupta as conductor; Neema Bickersteth as the lead soprano and co-choreographer; Trebian Pollard as dancer and co-choreographer; and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar as consulting choreographer. In a new adaptation, the Lincoln Center presentation of Ritual of Breath will feature a 75-person chorus of singers from Mama Foundation's Wednesday Sings Ensemble and Dartmouth College Gospel Choir—both directed by Knoelle Higginson. Design credits include scenic & projection by Dartmouth alumnus Peter Nigrini '93, lights by Reza Behjat, costumes by Gabriel Berry, and Camilla Tassi GR '18 as projection associate.


Ritual of Breath Creative Team
'Ritual of Breath' collaborators: Jonathan Berger, Enrico Riley '95, Vievee Francis, Niegel Smith '02 and Kamna Gupta.

"For over 400 years the power of opera has earned its reputation in its stagecraft and compelling storytelling generating empathy and understanding for the human condition," says Mary Lou Aleskie, Executive Director of the Hop. "Ritual of Breath uniquely attempts to expand its reach, not only through its use of technology and visual art, but by connecting its story and healing to communities of resistance and healing well beyond the stage experience itself."

For more information visit www.ritualofbreath.org.