Diana Soto is an up-and-coming Puerto Rican choreographer, performer, and dance instructor. Her style is peppered with a creative flair while cultivating a clear technique and genuine feeling grounded in Arab dance. On stage and in the classroom she is engaging and vibrant, connecting with audiences and students alike. She believes that the best innovation is rooted in tradition.
Soto started studying dance when she was 5 years old. Since then she has presented her dance work in Colombia, Brasil, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and all over the United States. She also lived in Beirut, Lebanon, for a couple of months to immerse herself in the culture and train in dance.
With a research MA in Cultural Analysis from the University of Amsterdam, Soto taught in 2016 the first ever course on Middle Eastern Dance at the University of Puerto Rico, an interdisciplinary exploration into the diversity of Arab dances and the discourses behind Orientalism and Eurocentrism. She currently lives in Houston where she performs often with renowned dance companies such as Shunyata Dance (fusion), BellaDonna (cabaret), and Folkoholic Dance Theater (dabke and zaffa). She teaches online via dianadancemagic.teachable.com In 2022, you can catch her at Migrations and Art of the Belly, among other dance festivals.
Dabke is part of the folklore of the Levant region (primarily Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Jordan). And yet, folklore is not something frozen in time. Folklore is ALIVE. When you walk through the streets of Beirut in Lebanon and you talk to people, they will speak about “our dance” and what they mean is dabke, not raks sharki or belly dance. In this workshop, we are taking our dabke to the cabaret. We are bringing our sequined canes and infusing some sass while holding true to the steps and movement vocabulary of dabke. Experience with dabke is not needed, but experience with cane is recommended.
Nadia Gamal's Fierce Freedom
Nadia Gamal was an artist like no other. She broke the mold in many ways with a fierce style that set trends for decades to come in Lebanese raks sharki (belly dance). In this workshop, we will explore her technique through drilling different steps and combos. But even more, we will explore through movement the signature of her style as an artist: something that I call her Fierce Freedom. On stage and in movies, Nadia’s dance was both bold and precise. She fused genres with confidence, crossing the boundaries within raks sharki, ballet, Latin dances, and theatrical, among others. She was unapologetic about big, bold, and even seemingly wild, movements on stage. Come experience a different side of belly dance and have a little taste of Nadia Gamal’s Fierce Freedom.