Para español, seleccione de la lista

Myriam Eli

2023 Heritage Award Winner

Myriam Eli is a South Florida based dancer, percussionist and tradition bearer who practices and preserves Sephardic and Middle Eastern Music and Dance. She is a master of the Danse Orientale, a folk-based dance from the Middle East and North Africa characterized by circular motions of the torso and rhythmic movements of the hips. Born in Havana, Cuba, Myriam comes from a multicultural Jewish family. Her mother’s family were Ashkenazi Jews who emigrated from Eastern Europe; her father’s side were Sephardic Jews who left Turkey for Cuba in the early 20th Century. When she was eight years old, her family left Cuba several years after the Cuban Revolution and settled in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Myriam’s early childhood was filled with Middle Eastern music and conversation in the Ladino language, sometimes called Judeo-Spanish. She attended college at Rutgers University then moved to New York City to pursue dance full time, where she performed with Serena Dance Theater and Morocco’s Dance Company. Dancers were expected to play percussion, and this was when she began her study of traditional Middle Eastern percussion. During this time, she met her collaborator and husband, oud player Joe Zeytoonian, who won a Florida Folk Heritage Award in 2000. 


In 1985, they moved to South Florida and founded Harmonic Motion, a nonprofit arts organization focusing on cross-cultural and folkloric music and dance. They regularly produce and participate in workshops and performances of Middle Eastern music and dance including Armenian, Arabic, Sephardic, and Turkish, as well as collaborations with jazz, flamenco, Indian, Greek, Balkan, African, Afro-Cuban and other traditional musical genres. Myriam’s specialty is performing, teaching, and preserving Sephardic and Ladino songs, *Middle Eastern dance, and traditional percussion. She has also studied flamenco for many years, having performed in various companies. Most notably in her career as a dancer and choreographer, she worked with pop star Shakira to incorporate Middle Eastern dance into the star’s stage show. She has toured globally and appeared on MTV, Saturday Night Live, the Latin Grammys, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and The Today Show. In 2003, Myriam was a master artist in the Florida Folklife Apprenticeship Program, where she taught Middle Eastern Dance to apprentice Corrina Finch. In 2022, Harmonic Motion were Florida Folklife’s 2022 Artist-in-Residence, where they played and performed at Florida State University School, School for Arts and Innovative Learning, Florida State University, and Mission San Luis.