Shannon Hummel is a choreographer, arts educator and Founding Artistic & Executive Director of Cora Dance. Driven to create access to the arts for all people, she opened The Cora Studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn in 2009 as a home for her professional company and their education programs. The space strives to create exceptional dance experiences while addressing the impediments that restrict many people from the art-form.
Equal parts professional choreographer and community artist, Hummel’s work has been seen as much in church basements, public parks and community spaces as on some of the country’s finest stages. She has been repeatedly critically acclaimed by Style Magazine, Village Voice, Richmond Times Dispatch, and The New York Times where she has been a Top 10 Critics Pick for Dance and had her “finely wrought dances” called “poignant, funny, vivid and true, remarkably assured and perceptive” and most recently “a rare gem.”
While her choreography has been presented in over 30 NYC venues (including the 92nd Street Y, BAM, BAX, Brooklyn Museum of Art, DTW, Danspace Project, La MaMa, LMCC, among others), Hummel is also known for creating accessible grassroots performances in off-the-beaten-path places in KY, NY, NJ, OK, VA, VT and WV.
She has been an educational advisor, mentor or faculty member for hundreds of institutions including her alma mater James Madison University; enjoyed significant residencies in support of her choreography from Vermont Performance Lab, BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange among others; and taught and lectured widely at American Dance Festival, ACDFA, NYLA, Rutgers, William & Mary, Marlboro College, Virginia Commonwealth University, Washington & Lee, among others. She is most proud to be the mom of a lively, lovely dancing boy named Henry. (Photos: Above: Kamau Ware. Below: Steve Pisano.)
I am a storyteller. I like people and relationships. I create work that opens intimate, demanding physical conversations between dancers and find my deepest pleasure in seeing their individual voices radiate through the movment until the work no longer feels like it is mine, but instead belongs to the dancers. I like to give dance away.
I make work that roots people in their sense of place, where they live geographically as well as in their hearts. This to me is home. Home - internally or externally, emotional or geographic - is a complicated thing that always elicits challenging questions. I like the messiness of digging into those questions of what makes a PLACE a home, a FEELING a home, a PERSON a home... in what we value and believe is right and true (and how that can bring peace or devastation, depending on what you do with those beliefs.) Both in the process of making and in the presentation of what I create, ultimately, I hope to inspire genuine empathy where, perhaps, none existed before.
I'm a connector and a facilitator, more than a maker. The backbone of my work is deep exploration of universal human experiences, of life's literal and emotional paradoxes. Loss, for example, often brings new promises. Satisfaction can cause suffering. Pain can inspire humor. I believe, at most moments, we are all trying to do our best with what we have.... and yet... we still experience (and cause) so much pain. We experience contradiction intuitively. In some ways, if entered into without judgment, I think contradiction can unite us. At our best, we can acknowledge difference while appreciating the important common ground of flesh, bone, heart, soul, love, hate, and breath that make us all the same. That is what dance does for me. It keeps me honest. It lays bare the intimate underpinnings of what I think and feel. Dance, in this way, brings me clarity and family. It is a counter to lonliness and isolation. It is my home.
I bring my work EVERYWHERE. School gymnasiums, church basements, and free public spaces, prestigious venues, major universities. A new place, like a new person, brings opportunities for undiscovered knowledge, growth, and enrichment. I strive to be open to all of it.