River to River Festival lineup: Free events, performances you won’t want to miss

The annual River to River Festival returns in June for another round of free dance, music, theater and visual arts.

Every year, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) turns downtown and Governors Island into its stage, gallery and experimental studio, as performers and artists bring ambitious works to the iconic setting.

During the fest, there are more than 100 performances from 17 projects, several of which change through time. 

River to River Festival runs from June 14 to 25. Find out more at RiverToRiverNYC.com.

Here are 10 events you won’t want to miss:

“R2R Living Rooms With DJ Average Jo and Special Guests”

Kick off the festival experience with a high-energy outdoor performance by Dance Cartel, followed by groove-worthy sets by guest DJs. On three evenings throughout the event, the Cartel will be celebrating the occasion with good vibes at this riverside party. Pier A Harbor House, various times, June 14, 21, 25

“Black Gotham Experience”

The history and legacy of the African diaspora in New York City and its influence on the metropolis is celebrated with this multifaceted project by Kamau Ware. Visitors learn about the city’s black heritage through a walking tour, graphic novels and an art exhibit. Various locations and times, June 15 to 25

“A Marvelous Order”

The epic battle between city planner Robert Moses and activist Jane Jacobs is fought with passionate singing in this multimedia opera about the two legendary New Yorkers dialectically opposed about urban development. Fulton Center, 7 p.m., June 15, 17, 18.  

“A Supple Perimeter”

Artist and educator Kameelah Janan Rasheed explores her expansive research into black traditions, history and life with an exhibit that uses installations, photography, printmaking, unfinished videos and writing. LMCC’s Arts Center, Governors Island, noon to 5 p.m., June 15 to 25

“Amir Elsaffar: Rivers of Sound — Not Two”

Jazz trumpeter and vocalist Amir Elsaffar River of Sound orchestra celebrates the release of their debut album Not Two with a special concert. Comprised of 17 musicians from various music traditions and background, the sound is sure to be one of a kind. The Plaza, 28 Liberty, 6 p.m., June 16


Contemporary dance choreographer Beth Gill brings an immersive, engaging performance to Federal Hall that is as surreal as it is thoughtfully layered. Federal Hall, 8 p.m., June 17 to 19

“The Set Up: Island Ghost Sleep Princess Time Story Show”

A five years-in-the-making tour de dance, this show combines choreography created after meeting and working with masters from far-flung dance traditions including Balinese Topeng, Cambodian, Okinawan, French baroque and Indian Kutiyattam. The dancers are performed by several dancers in various locations across Governors Island. Governors Island, various times, June 17 to 25

“Night at the Museums”

In honor of the occasion, over a dozen museums in the area offer free admission on June 20th. Trace New York’s history at the Fraunces Tavern Museum and the African Burial Ground National Monument, or pay tribute to a tragedy that still looms at the National September 11 Memorial Museum. Various locations, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., June 20. Advanced registration required for certain museums.


While the current political climate isn’t always kind to immigrants, writer and director Jimmy Maize humanizes their journey by using over 50 performers and an original score for a site-specific theatrical experience that weaves together 200 years of immigrant stories with tales gathered earlier that day from passersby outside the space. Winter Garden, Brookfield Place, various times, June 22 to 25

“Open Studios”

To close out the festival, LMCC invites visitors to its Art Center, a historic converted warehouse on Governors Island, to meet the organization’s multidisciplinary artists-in-residence and see where they process their work. LMCC’s Art Center, Governors Island, noon to 5 p.m., June 24