Dancer, choreographer, video, and improvisation artist Merián Soto, is the creator of aesthetic-somatic dance practices and methodologies, Branch Dancing and Modal Practice. Her 40+ years career in dance has spanned various artistic movements. A central figure in the ‘80s and ‘90s Latina Arts, Equity, and Community Arts movements in New York City, Soto has collaborated extensively with visual artist Pepón Osorio on full-evening interdisciplinary works such as Historias (1992-1999), hailed as an American masterpiece, and Familias (1995), 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 (1999) and La Máquina del Tiempo (2004). Since 2005, she has developed Branch Dancing, a meditative movement practice with branches that investigates consciousness in performance, and the Branch Dance Series, which includes dozens of performances on stage, in galleries, and in nature, as well as video installations, and year-long seasonal projects including the award-winning One Year Wissahickon Park Project (2007-08).
Committed to supporting new Latino dance and performance arts and artists, Soto is Founding Artistic Director, along with Patti Bradshaw and Pepón Osorio, of Pepatián, the Bronx-based, multi-disciplinary Latino arts organization. In that capacity, she developed and produced numerous projects featuring works by emerging Latino dance and performance artists, including the Latino dance and performance festival, Rompeforma, co- created with Viveca Vázquez, and presented in Puerto Rico from 1989-1996.
Since 1999, Soto teaches Dance at Temple University in Philadelphia, where she has developed Modal Practice, the improvisational methodology now practiced widely by choreographers in Philadelphia, New York, Puerto Rico and beyond. Soto is Curator of the Temple University Institute of Dance Scholarship’s Reflection/Response Choreographic Commission, supporting the work of choreographers such as Kathy Westwater, Lela Aisha Jones, Awilda Sterling Duprey and Marion Ramírez. Her writings on dance have been published in Choreographic Practices, Heresies Magazine, Movement Research Journal, and Contact Quarterly.
Soto is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including a New York Dance and Performance Award BESSIE for sustained achievement in 2000, a Greater Philadelphia Dance and Physical Theater Award “ROCKY” in 2008 for her One Year Wissahickon Park Project, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts (2015), a Leeway Foundation Transformation Award (2016), Rauschenberg Foundation Residency (2017), and most recently a 2019 United States Artists Doris Duke Fellowship in Dance.
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, co-produced with Viveca Vázquez; and an ongoing collaboration with choreographer Silvana Cardell as performer with Cardell Dance Theater.