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Sylvia Soumah interview transcript, 2018

Identifier: dcpl_dcohc010

Scope and Contents

In this oral history Sylvia Soumah reflects on her young life growing up in a Cincinnati, Ohio housing project, falling in love with dance, and building her career in dance in Washington, D.C. In Cincinnati she attended a performing arts high school, upon graduation she worked at a German restaurant, until, at age 20, she left for Washington D.C. While waitressing in Adams Morgan, she began dancing, initially dancing mostly modern and jazz. She talks about discovering African styles of dance initially because the classes where a friendly place for her to bring her child, then instantly becoming hooked and shifting her focus. She first performed at DanceAfrica in 1992. Her love for African dance inspires her to travel to Guinea. She speaks about how she never expected her career to take off, at first her dances focused on issues that were very personal to her. She eventually started a youth academy. She reflects on how the festival has changed a lot, and how the Brookland neighborhood, in which her studio is embedded, has changed.


  • Creation: 2018


Biographical / Historical

Sylvia Soumah is the founder and Artistic Director of Coyaba Dance Theater. She has studied, performed, and taught throughout the D.C. Metro area and abroad. She has studied in Conakry, Guinea with Les Ballets Africains, and Senegal under the director of Bouly Sonko, Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Senegal. She also performs with Erika Thimey Dance Theater and Carla & Company. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, she moved to Washington, D.C. in 1985.


From the Collection: 1.13 Terabytes

Language of Materials


Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001