We had the good fortune of connecting with Sue Schroeder and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sue, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
“When we formed, the natural order in dance was that choreographers, most of whom were white males, were masters, and dancers were subordinates,” said Schroeder, who cofounded Core Dance at the age of 23. “There was a great deal of abuse going on in the dance world, and it was simply accepted as the norm.” But Schroeder wouldn’t have it. “Core” refers to an artistic partnership, and partners have included the company Dance Artists, other choreographers, composers, musicians, visual artists, set designers, lighting designers, et al.; Schroeder believes that art is always made richer through collaboration. “Success in art making, to me, comes down to truly collaborating, which only happens when you genuinely value people, give them a voice, and give them a seat at the table,” said Schroeder. “When people are valued, they buy in more, they connect more deeply with the work, they contribute more, they invest longer.” To strengthen the practice of collaboration, Schroeder developed a “Core Dance Manifesto”.
As a tangible way to define the cultural practice of Core Dance, both the artistic and business sides of the organization, the Manifesto draws from five components:
• Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements
• Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process
• The Field’s Fieldwork Method for Feedback
• Marlene Johnson’s Guidelines for Cooperative Living
• The Formal Consensus Process The practice aims to foster quality work and protect relationships.
“We value mutual respect and want to offer feedback and communication that is meaningful,” said Schroeder. “Our practice and work is not static; it is alive, ongoing and continuous. It requires activation each and every day to support these aspirations.” Although Schroeder had informally applied the framework for years, it wasn’t until she reached burnout in 2004 that the practice was formalized. “It got to the point that I could no longer handle the volume of my workload,” said Schroeder, “so out of that moment we developed a shared leadership model. Core Dance needed to lead in the same manner that art was made in the studio – collaboratively, sharing power, and creating true organizational health.”
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Innovation in dance arises from constantly investigating and experimenting with what’s possible with human bodies in motion. Core Dance cofounder and artistic director Sue Schroeder and the Dance Artists in the company may spend months investigating how to wordlessly express a single human emotion; Schroeder is always seeking new ways to stimulate movement possibilities beyond one’s comfort zone. “Our work is process-based,” explained Schroeder. “The end product is not the principal focus.” We are concerned with the actual doing and how actions can arrive at or inform an actual work of art. “We’re discovering art as it’s being made. Seeking the inherent motivation and intention within human movement, our work is truly a creative journey”. Nurturing relationships as opposed to “networking” and gratitude as a constant – these two practices form the foundation of Core Dance and our success. Working in the not for profit world, particularly the arts, the dance field and, specialized further, in contemporary dance – is NOT and never will be easy. Challenges are overcome by using what is inherent to our work : Creativity. Through so many passages and cylces, we have re-created ourselves again and again.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This is a challenging question in these times of the pandemic. Pre-pandemic: We would hike Mt. Arabia, take a bike ride with a picnic on the Silver Comet Trail (out a ways where the train tunnel is located), have lunch at the Blue Daisy at Serenbe and then walk the labyrinth there, go to church on Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, visit the Center for Civil and Human Rights. A visit to the Center for Puppetry Arts is a must and a live theater or dance experience would be fabulous. Drinks and dinner on the Decatur Square. And a night time walk at the Center for Non-Violence. Pre-pandemic or now, we would create meals together and sit by the fire in my backyard woods.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
To the more than 250 artists who have worked with Core Dance over our 40 years. Core Dance was built on the shoulders of each of you.
Linkedin: Core Dance or Sue Schroeder
Facebook: coredance or sueschroeder
Other: Vimeo: Core Dance
Christian Meyer photographer for 3 un – labeled images Michelle Cramont photographer for me outside