The Cora Dance Mission

Through its professional company, youth companies, wraparound services and pay-what-you-can school, Cora Dance creates exceptional dance experiences while addressing the impediments that often restrict low-income individuals from accessing the art form. Cora’s approach to choreography, training and community engagement invites people to find common ground and build a sense of community with one another through the arts, allowing all involved—artists, students, audiences and community members—to connect more deeply with one another.

Cora is dance for everyone, offering great art and rare opportunities for intersection. Everything is pay-what-you-can. No one is ever turned away from a class or performance based on what or if they can pay.

A little history…

Founded in 1998, Shannon Hummel/Cora Dance began as the critically acclaimed dance company performing the work of choreographer Shannon Hummel. Repeatedly lauded by such publications as The New York Times and Village Voice for her "sophisticated, vivid and true" yet accessible work, Hummel - a career dance educator as well as a celebrated professional choreographer - took a bold step in 2008, veering from the traditional modern dance company model to open a studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn as not only a home to continue her choreographic work, but also to investigate the inequities in access to specialized, professional arts experiences for low-income people. As a result, Cora began a dance education and training program in the studio open to the Red Hook community with all classes lead by outstanding professional artists in ballet, modern, hip hop, composition and other disciplines and offered on a PAY-WHAT-YOU-CAN basis. From the start, Cora dedicated itself to the values of EXCELLENCE of programming and leadership, EQUITY for all those desiring to participate and deep INVESTMENT in listening, evaluating and responding to always improve, grow, deepen and enrich programs. As a result, no one is ever turned away from a Cora Dance program or performance based on what or if they can pay.

In 2019-2020 Cora Dance is no longer only home to Hummel’s work with the critically acclaimed professional company with a PAY-WHAT-YOU-CAN school (now with over 500 students on and off-site, 80% on scholarship); the organization has grown into a fully realized, dance and equity-based arts center, offering - in addition to company and school programs - residency programs, guest artist opportunities, Youth Company Programs; pre-professional Apprentice Programs for students pursuing serious study; a long list of partnerships with NYC’s top training institutions and SEA/Services Equal Access Services such as free dancewear, shoes and snack; afterschool pick-up service; homework help; parent and family workshops and wraparound services to ensure dancers thrive. Cora Dance believes excellent arts experiences are a right that should never be denied anyone based on financial circumstances. With this the space immediately became a hub of intersection in this historically socio-economically divided community. 

Red Hook, Brooklyn is a peninsular neighborhood, cut off from the subway by water on three sides and a highway to the north, making access to quality arts programs beyond the area challenging for all the community's residents. Red Hook is home to NYC's second largest NYCHA low-income public housing development, where nearly 7,000 residents" live in the NYCHA housing, which is 60% of the community. While the areas of Red Hook along the waterfront have gentrified, boasting new amenities, resources and affluence, conditions have not significantly improved for the majority of residents in the neighborhood's massive public housing developments.

Hence, there are "two Red Hooks" - largely divided by race and class. Because Cora's programs are open to ALL people, regardless of ability to pay, the organization has proven to be a rare institution where all members of the community feel welcomed and engaged. This important sense of connection is carried well beyond the walls of the studio, creating more understanding between neighbors via equal access to outstanding art.

the PROFESSIONAL company: Shannon Hummel/Cora Dance

Shannon Hummel/Cora Dance began as a professional dance company in 1998, performing the work of choreographer Shannon Hummel. Hummel’s highly collaborative process begins by engaging open, intuitive, compelling performers in deep inquiry and movement improvisation around experiences we all share, laying common ground that allows for organic ownership of the material by all involved. Hummel’s richly detailed work has moved audiences for over 20 years in NYC and across the country. The backbone of Hummel's works is her acute awareness of life's cycles of contradictions - loss bringing new promise, satisfaction bringing suffering, pain bringing humor and so on. Her vivid, emotional dances lay bare the intimate underpinnings of what we think and feel, offering a voyeuristic journey into undeniably distinctive yet hauntingly familiar movement universes. Theatrical, accessible, kinetic, and sophisticated, Hummel’s work has been described as “a rare gem”, “assured, perceptive, vivid and true” repeatedly by the New York Times, and moving the watcher to “feel the quiet tearing of a heart that might be your own.” (NY Times) Always striving to broaden access to dance, Hummel's has strived to present in her work in out-of-they way places where audiences lack access to live performance, dancing in school gymnasiums, church basements, backyards and free public spaces across the five boroughs as well as in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia among other areas. Coversely, he work is still presented on the formal stages of colleges, universities, theaters and some of the most prestigious venues in NYC including BAM/Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn Museum of Art, the 92nd St Y among many others. For more information on Shannon Hummel/Cora Dance click here.

free and pay-what-you-can dance education programs

Cora Dance opened its doors in Red Hook in 2008, offering outstanding professionally led classes at pay-what-you-can rates to students ages 3 through adult. Beyond the honor-system-sliding-scale tuition policy, Cora's constantly evaluates other impediments restrict students from having equal access to dance and goes the distance to address those barriers. Cora provides free snack to all students, after-school pick-up service to classes from local schools, free dance-wear and shoes to all those in need. Additionally, Cora provides professional and pre-professional performance opportunities and one-on-one assistance with securing spots in performing arts middle and high schools to all dancers participating in its Youth Company Programs. Since opening, the school has served over 1000 students - 80% of whom are on scholarship - and presented or hosted over 100 community performances and events in local schools and public sites. For updated scheduled and detailed information, click here.

YCP/Youth company programs

Cora’s YCP/Youth Company Programs serve as a bridge between the school's technique classes and pre-professional ensemble work. Cora's most talented and dedicated students grades 4-12 are selected through open auditions each spring to take part in one of 3 repertory performing ensembles chosen based on age and ability: CYC/Cora Youth Company Tier 1 (Grades 4-8), Tier 2 (Grades 6-12) and Tier 3 (Grades 8-12). CYC dancers rehearse take classes weekly 4-15 hours (depending on Tier) and perform 5-18 times each year both locally and, for CYC 3, on tour out-of-state to colleges, universities, theaters and studios. YCP Families receive wraparound services and professional development - both one-on-one and in groups - to build their understanding and skills needed to better support their young performing artist in achieving their artistic and life goals, including assistance with auditioning for performing arts middle and high schools and colleges. Those dancing in YCP for 2 years or more may audition for 1-4 highly select spots annually to work as Apprentice Members within the professional company, Shannon Hummel/Cora Dance where they recieve monetary rehearsal and performance stipends and more rigourous performance opportunities among professional artists in established and developing evening length works. For more information on the YCP programs, click here.


In 2018-2019 Cora Dance is supported in part by funds from New York Urban League, the City of New York, and the Department of Youth and Community Development; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; public funds from the Decentralization Program of the New York State Council on the Arts, administered in Kings County by Brooklyn Arts Council; and additional funds provided by ALLINBKLYN, the Office of Councilman Carlos Menchaca, The O'Connell Organization Family Foundation, Inc., the Michael Tuch Foundation, Tiger Baron Foundation, the Earlynn J. Miller Donor-Advised Fund of the Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Omaha Community Foundation, The White Cedar Fund, Fred J. Brotherton Charitable Foundation and the Meringoff Family Foundation and Cora's generous individual donors. Printed materials were made possible, in part, with funds from the Destination>Brooklyn Program, funded by the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, Eric L. Adams and NYC & Company Foundation, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council; and with additional from SaveMor Digital Printing. Capital funds made possible by an anonymous donor, the Earlynn J. Miller Donor-Advised Fund of the Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, generous support of the Red Hook community and Cora's individual donors.