King and Queen of Carnaval contest was held Sunday, April 22, and it
filled Roccapulco nightclub with exuberant Carnaval people. The
contestants danced to Samba and Soca music, and our new Queen, Elizabeth
Soberanes, was chosen amidst stiff competition. She presented an
electrifying performance, throwing her black feather boa around the
shoulders of one of the judges.
she says, is a rare opportunity to let loose, dance without inhibitions,
and share energy with masses of people, of all ages and backgrounds.
intentionally entered the contest without choreography, in
order to share
the joy of dancing in the moment. She avoided a skimpy costume, believing
that it was not a beauty contest, but rather an opportunity to showcase
the spirit of joy and connection with the audience. "The
drummers, organized by Jose Rivera, were crucial in creating an
environment of spontaneous abandon that energized and moved me.
I am so grateful for their participation."
|Performing solo is
a personal challenge for Elizabeth. In her development as a person and as
a dancer, it was a hurdle to overcome. "After I finished
my piece in the competition, I was so excited I got through
it, I realized it was not about winning. Of course, once they
announced the winners I was ecstatic. I was screaming so much I almost
lost my voice!" The
fact that almost all the contestants knew each other, and
gave sincere support to one another, added to the camaraderie
of the event. “It was like
one big reunion, both backstage and in the audience – and everyone was
so supportive, it was so amazing!”
been fortunate to be able to study with so many wonderful teachers
including Christiane Crawford, Shawn Peltier, Valerie Watson, Blanche
Brown, Djola Branner, Michele Martin, Alicia Pierce, Dr. Albirda Rose,
Josephine Morada, Carlos Aceituno, Betho Filho, Conceicao Damasceno, Edson
Escovao, Rosangela Sylvestre, and most recently with Susana Arenas.
Soberanes has choreographed and performed throughout the bay area with
Aluadomar Dance Company, Ginga Brasil Dance Theater, Escola Nova de Samba
and various independent artists. She has studied Afro-Brazilian,
Afro-Haitian, Afro-Cuban, Dunham Technique, Hip Hop and Dance
Composition/Creative Movement. In 2000, she participated in Carnaval
in Salvador - Bahia, Brazil with Malč de Bale and Timbalada in addition
to participating in workshops with Santo Amaro Dancers & Musicians and
Balč Folklorico da Bahia.
to Brazil last year and participating in Carnaval in Bahia really brought
it all home for me. I
realized that there comes a point when you have to let go, stop trying to
control things and just let things happen on their own.
This is so true when you participate in a parade of such
claustrophobic proportions. You
literally have to allow the crowds to move you along.
It is so overwhelming when you’re in it that you just have to
laugh at your helplessness and ride it out."
|"Suddenly, your problems seem so insignificant – that’s the
power of this supernatural energy that happens when masses of people unite
with a purpose. I would love
to see this kind of energy here in San Francisco.”
Soberanes came to San Francisco in 1973 with her family from Mexico.
Her family settled in the Mission District and has lived here ever
1989 after taking hip hop dance classes at Rhythm and Motion and then
Brazilian dance classes with Escola Nova de Samba, she decided to become a
dancer. She quit her insurance job and went to London for three
months to jump-start her college career.
“I didn’t know where I was going to fit in as a dancer but I
enrolled in dance classes anyways. One
day, my Haitian Dance teacher, Valerie Watson, told the students that we
always question why we were dancing, that we had to find out why
the dances and the movements were significant to the people.
It was then that I decided to pursue a degree in Dance
received my BA in Dance Ethnology from SFSU and I also went through a
year-long internship program with Performing Arts Workshop to teach
creative movement and ethnic dance to children.
I wanted to teach children about dance and encourage them to be
creative and uninhibited because I didn’t have that opportunity as a
do not believe me when I say that I don’t like to be the center of
attention. But that’s
because dance has allowed me to express myself in ways that have made me
more self-confident. And
I see this same effect in young children when they are encouraged to move
creatively. Dance and art teach creativity and problem solving skills in
a structured way – something that conventional teaching methods do not.
I taught dance for three years in the public school system and I
have to commend anyone who teaches the arts to youth – it is hard but
such important work and yet they are not recognized as legitimate
Currently, Ms. Soberanes is
participating in the Rhythm and Motion teacher-training program and will
be teaching regular classes for adults starting this summer.
|In addition to her dance
pursuits, Ms. Soberanes has worked as a Production Manager for the East
Bay Center for the Performing Arts, and for World Arts West as their
Community Involvement Coordinator and Project Director for the
children’s educational program, People Like Me.
She is now an independent Performing Arts Consultant producing
events for various independent artists and arts organizations including
ODC Theater, World Arts West (producers of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance
Festival), and Ensambles Ballet Folklorico de San Francisco.
this competition has to qualify as the most memorable Carnaval event for
me so far.
Mostly because I want to be a
spokesperson to promote Carnaval and the artists that make Carnaval such a
wonderful event.” As the new
Queen she has already encountered a web of information about Carnaval
and she hopes that this open dialogue continues. "Everybody has
his own take on this event." She says. “It’s so important to so
many people. This is an exciting time in San Francisco
Carnaval's history and I'm proud to be involved in a distinctive
way, especially in this pivotal year of potential change."