Queen Elizabeth Soberanes


The 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.

Carnaval, she says, is a rare opportunity to let loose, dance without inhibitions, and share energy with masses of people, of all ages and backgrounds.

She 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!”

“I’ve 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.

Ms. 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.

“Going 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.”

Ms. Soberanes came to San Francisco in 1973 with her family from Mexico.  Her family settled in the Mission District and has lived here ever since.

In 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 had to 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 Ethnology.” 

“I 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 child.” 

“People 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 rewarding work.  Artists do such important work and yet they are not recognized as legitimate teachers.”

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. 
“Winning 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."
 
*Click here for King of Carnaval San Francisco 2001 Page*