CROSSCURRENTS is an homage as much as it is an invocation. Premiered as the first act of Atelier Impopulaire's opera Before We Love inspired by the story of New York City's legendary UMBRA Poets Workshop, the performance – fronted by musician Luwayne Glass (Dreamcrusher) – focuses on voice, moving images and the revelatory and antagonistic live act of Dreamcrusher, whose transformative essence embodies and liberates the political nature of poetry. A collaboration that brings a decennial research on the legacy of spoken word and the primitive forms of free jazz into a multi-sensorial wall of sound, recalling the rise of socio-cultural struggles that shaped pre-Black Arts Movement experiences and whose potency is more relevant and contemporary than ever.
Friday September 15 11 pm, main stage
Before We Love (Act 1: Crosscurrents, Act 2: 12 Gates, Act 3: The Shadow Society) completes our trilogy about the birth of underground artistic movements and civil rights activism in the African-American, Italian and Latino communities that had migrated to New York City’s Lower East Side by the early 1960s. This final chapter transitions from the solidity of the site-specific installation to the emotional experience of a live opera, yielding the stage to a new generation of poets, musicians and performers who has picked up the torch of this rich and empowering history.
UMBRA Poets Workshop's importance is rooted not only in the history of the Civil Rights Movement but in its ability to change the course of American literature, driving the revolution of the Expanded Arts and accompanying the birth of Multimedia Arts, Free Jazz and the Black Arts Movement.
Echoing the nature of the group, we created a narrative and a visual choreography that aim to pay tribute to the legacy of this experience, in a prismatic, open format.
We began researching for this project in 2012 at the New York Public Library / Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Over the years we’ve collected all available archival sources from the Center for Jazz Studies (Columbia University), the Poetry Foundation (Chicago), the Amistad Research Center (New Orleans University), the Harvard Film Archive and The Fales Library & Special Collections (NYU University). All living members of the UMBRA workshop have been involved.