Through its company, studio and school, Cora creates exceptional dance experiences while addressing the impediments that restrict individuals from accessing the art form. Cora fosters common ground amongst diverse people, allowing all involved—artists, students, audiences and community members—to connect more deeply with one another through the arts.
Founded in 1997, 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 choreographer - took a bold step in 2009, veering from the traditional company model to open a studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The Cora Studio became a home to continue the work of Hummel's professional company, Cora Dance, and to house the newly formed Cora School for Dance, offering 5 days a week of pay-what-you-can classes in ballet, modern, hip hop, composition and other dance-forms led by outstanding professional teachers and dancers. From the start, Cora dedicated itself to the practice of turning no one away from a performance, program or event based on what or if they could pay, believing that excellent arts experiences should never be denied anyone based on financial circumstances. With this practice in place, 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 over 8,000 people reside: over 70% of the Red Hook 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.
Shannon Hummel/Cora Dance is a professional mixed-discipline dance company performing the work of choreographer Shannon Hummel. The backbone of Hummel's works is her deep exploration of universal human experiences and her acute awareness of life's contradictions - loss bringing new promise, satisfaction bringing suffering, pain bringing humor and so on. Her vivid 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 marries the power of dance with the force of emotion, weaving eloquent stories brought to life by Cora's outstanding ensemble of performers. Always striving to broaden access to dance, Hummel's choreographic work has been experiences as much in school gymnasiums, church basements, and free public spaces as on the formal stages of prestigious venues and major universities across the country. Among her most recent critical acclaim, her latest evening length work, "down here" presented at BAM Fisher, was called "a rare gem" by The New York Times.
The Cora School for Dance opened its doors in Red Hook in 2009, offering outstanding professionally led classes at pay-what-you-can rates to students ages 5 through adult. Beyond the honor-system-sliding-scale tuition policy, Cora's constantly evaluates what other impediments beyond cost 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, professional and pre-professional performance opportunities to our Cora Youth Company and Junior Youth Company members and one-on-one consultation and preparation assistance to our advanced students wishing to audition for performing arts middle and high schools. 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.
Shannon Hummel/Cora Dance is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the city council. The Cora School for Dance is made possible with public funds from the Decentralization Program of the New York State Council on the Arts, administered in Kings County by Brooklyn Arts Council. Additional funds were provided by ALLINBKLYN, from the Office of Councilman Carlos Menchaca, the Earlynn J. Miller Donor-Advised Fund of the Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, the Meringoff Family Foundation, the Red Hook Support Corporation and SaveMor Digital Printing.