Merián Soto
Dancer & Choreographer
Philadelphia, PA
2019 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Merián Soto is a Puerto Rican dancer, choreographer, video, and improvisation artist that created the aesthetic-somatic dance practices Branch Dancing and Modal Practice. Her 40-year career in dance has spanned across various artistic movements. In the 80s and 90s, she collaborated extensively with visual artist Pepón Osorio on full-evening interdisciplinary works such as Historias, hailed as an American masterpiece, and Familias, created in collaboration with eight South Bronx families. Soto is also known for her experiments with Salsa, in critically acclaimed works such as Así se baila un Son and La Máquina del Tiempo. Since 2005, she has created the Branch Dance Series, an extensive body of performance works in nature and projected environments, including One Year Wissahickon Park Project and SoMoS.

Soto is Professor at the Esther Boyer College of Music & Dance at Temple University in Philadelphia where she is Curator of the Reflection/Response Choreographic Commission. She is the recipient of numerous awards and grants. In 2000, she received a New York Dance and Performance Award, also known as a “Bessie,” a Greater Philadelphia Dance and Physical Theater “Rocky” Award in 2008, a Pew Artist Fellowship in 2015, and a Leeway Transformation Award in 2016. Her writings on dance have been published in Choreographic Practices, Heresies Magazine, Movement Research Journal, and Contact Quarterly. Her current projects include Modes!, a performance, exhibition, and scholarship project summarizing Modal Practice; and Rompeforma ¡Fenomenal! 1989-1996, a documentary on the celebrated Latinx performance festival in Puerto Rico.

Portrait photo by Nicole Myles.
  • Vine LIVE, 2016. From the performance and exhibition project Modes!, featuring Vine mode. Performed by Beau Hancock & Marion Ramírez. Conwell Dance Theater, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Bill Hebert.
  • Elephant 3: I've Got the Shakes, 2017. Third in the series of dances titled Elephant: Modal Dances in the Time of Trump, featuring Shake mode. Conwell Dance Theater, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Bill Hebert.
  • Branch Dances in the Bronx, 2016. Presented by Dancing in the Streets in collaboration with BAAD Bronx. Photo by Ricardo Muniz.
  • Be With What Is: A Post-Maria Offering, 2018. Created and performed by Merián Soto, Conwell Dance Theater, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Bill Hebert.