Shannon Hummel is a choreographer, arts educator, arts activist and Founding Artistic Director of Cora Dance. Driven to create access to the arts for all people. Click here to read more. (Photo by Kamau Ware.)
ARTISTic STATEMENT FROM ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, SHANNON HUMMEL
Cora Dance is about stories. Everyone has a story to tell and through our telling, we find undeniable connection to one another. Whether teaching, choreographing or engaging in an outreach endeavor, I am a listener and a storyteller. I like people and relationships and create choreography and artistic practices that open possibilities for intimacy, vulnerability and ultimately, human connection. In my work, this happens in the form of demandingly detailed physical conversations between dancers. I find my deepest pleasure in seeing their individual voices and crystal clear intentions radiate through movement until the work no longer feels like it is mine, but instead belongs to the dancers. In this collaborative ‘giving away’ of dance, I get to tell a story and receive one at the same time.
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 feel drawn to 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: with others, with the world, with oneself.
As a teacher and choreographer, I'm a facilitator and director of movement, 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.
Creating dance and teaching through Cora Dance offers me the privilege to unravel puzzles of my own making in a safe space and to learn to use failure to move forward in a positive way. Improvisations beginning with “what happens if we”, and progressing patiently through layer after layer of adjustments, improvements, clarifications, truth-telling found through a willingness to fail is how my dancers and dances are made. I believe the studio is a place where we learn to fail, to get comfortable with the unknown. to have faith.
I believe in dance happening 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.
My hope for all the things I engage in with Cora Dance - choroegraphy, education, curation, community engagement - is that I am creating opportunities where we train ourselves to get comfortable with failure, to learn from it, to try again with more information, and, through that process, to find the courage to bring that practice out of the studio and into the world.