Dancer, choreographer, video, and improvisation artist Merián Soto, is the creator of aesthetic-somatic dance practices, Branch Dancing and Modal Practice. 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 critically acclaimed works which such as Historias (hailed as an American Masterpiece), which toured (inter)nationally from 1992-1999; and the Emmy nominated Familias, (1995). Committed to supporting new Latino dance and performance arts and artists, Soto is a founding artistic director of Pepatian, the Bronx-based Latinx arts organization, for which she curated and produced numerous Latino artist projects including the celebrated Rompeforma festival in Puerto Rico, from 1989-1996.
Since 1999, Soto teaches Dance at Temple University in Philadelphia, where in 2013, she (arguably) became the first Latina choreographer to achieve the rank of full professor in a US university. At Temple, she has developed Modal Practice, the improvisational methodology now practiced widely by choreographers in Philadelphia, New York, Puerto Rico and beyond. Since 2005, she has developed Branch Dancing, a meditative movement practice with branches and the Branch Dance Series, which includes dozens of performances on stage, in galleries, in nature, as well as video installations, and year-long seasonal projects.
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, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts (2015), a Leeway Foundation Transformation Award (2016), a Rauschenberg Foundation Residency (2017), a United Staes Artists Doris Duke Fellowship in Dance (2019)
She is Curator of the Temple University Institute of Dance Scholarship’s Reflection/Response Choreographic Commission. Her writings on dance have been published in Choreographic Practices, Heresies Magazine, Movement Research Journal, and Contact Quarterly.
Soto's 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.