Choreographer Merián Soto has been named 2019 Unites States Artist Doris Duke Fellow in Dance. She is the only Philadelphia-based artist honored of the 45 nationwide recipients. The fellowship will help support her current projects – Modes!, a performance and exhibition of Modal Practice, an improvisational methodology that has been the backbone of Soto’s creative investigation for more than 20 years; and Rompeforma Fenomenal! 1989–1996, a documentary on the now legendary Latinx artist’s festival, Rompeforma, Maratón de Baile y Performance.
These two projects have offered Soto a look back on her career while also providing an opportunity to create a new work. “Often when working with my archives, I’m struck with the volume and range and continued relevance of work I’ve created. Last summer, while going through Rompeformaarchives, I wondered, how can I bring this work back into the world? How does my work with curation speak to my choreography and dance? What does the accumulation of my creative endeavors mean? Looking back somehow positions me to look forward into the future. The two projects allow me to access and tell a new story at the same time.”
From 1989–1996, Soto and choreographer Viveca Vázquez produced the celebrated Latinx dance and performance festival, Rompeforma: Maratón de Baile Performance & Visualesin Puerto Rico. Rompeforma presented dozens of performances by 60-plus Latinx artists. The documentary, Rompeforma Fenomenal! 1989–1996, tells the story of a generation of Latinx experimental dance, performance, and curation, and its contribution to the American avant-garde. The performance and exhibition project, Modes!, will feature multiple-channel video of dancing bodies to create surround-scapes, visual and aural environments. As well as live performances, Modes! will include workshops, talkbacks,and scholarly writing.
Merián Soto’s vibrant career, which began in her native Puerto Rico, spans four decades and numerous artistic movements. In 1974, she moved to New York City and studied with artists such as Meredith Monk and Elaine Summers. In 1983, along with choreographer Patti Bradshaw and her husband Pepón Osorio, she co-founded the Bronx-based arts organization, Pepatian. For over 10 years she collaborated with Osorio on aesthetically activist interdisciplinary performance works including the celebrated Historias(1992) and Familias(1995). In the late 1990s, Soto turned her attention to Salsa with such critically acclaimed works as Así se baila un Son (1999) and La Máquina del Tiempo(2004). In 2000, Soto received a New York Dance & Performance Award BESSIE for sustained achievement. Since 2006, Soto has developed the Branch Dance Series of performances and installations in nature and alternative spaces, including the award-winning One Year Wissahickon Park Project(2007–2008), and SoMoS(2012). Soto teaches at Temple University where she is Professor of Dance and Curator of the Reflection: Response Choreographic Commission.
Unites States Artists (USA) Fellowships span creative disciplines of Architecture & Design, Craft, Dance, Film, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts, Visual Art, and Writing, USA is dedicated to supporting artists who contribute to the inclusive transformation of the cultural and aesthetic landscape of the country. USA President & CEO Deana Haggag notes, “Each Fellow is a reminder of the breadth of our cultural landscape, and the 2019 cohort is yet another testament to how much incredible work is happening across the country.”
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