About Juliana F. May

Juliana F. May is a New York City native with a dual degree in Dance and Art History from Oberlin College. May first studied improvisation and composition for seven years with Laurie J. Roth at the Trevor Day School in NYC.  A Guggenheim and a NYFA Fellow, May has created nine works since 2002, including seven evening-length pieces with commissions and encore performances from Dance Theater Workshop, New York Live Arts, The Chocolate Factory Theater, Barnard College, The New School, Joyce SoHo and The American Realness festival. May has received numerous grants and residencies through The Map Fund, The Jerome foundation, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Gibney DIP. May holds an MFA in Choreography from the University Wisconsin-Milwaukee and was on faculty at The American Dance Festival in Durham, NC in 2016.

Photo: Alex Escalante


Throughout the past 10 years, I have become increasingly interested in the relationship between feeling, form and most recently, in the Aristotelian notion of Necessity. During my last two projects (Gutter Gate, 2011, Commentary=not thing 2013) this notion of necessity came to the forefront of the work as I began to wonder how abstraction could be necessary. What is necessary about shape, color or line and how can we define what “happens” throughout the course of a piece without being able to locate the “defining event?” I became disinterested in describing the narrative as non-linear. I felt like I was poaching this term from an historical and theoretical languaging tradition which said very little about my work and the kind of narrative I was interested in pursuing. Treading between a cooler aesthetic and a hotter emotional inclination, my thinking about content is shifting. How do I locate the “event” or cause of a particular dramatic action without falling into a kind of reasonable logic that will negate the structural risks I want to take? Instead, I want these “conceptual” or more emotionally resonant moments to shift the work structurally. Making it less about what the content is, and more about how its timbre can impact the formal logic of the work. The compositional integrity will be mapped by an abstract understanding of content and its ability to willfully attend to structure and resist being taken over by its conceptual or more “meaningful” tendencies. The“event” or defining moment, that some might read as content will be used as a tool or texture rather than defining narrative hook of the work. 

My work aligns a range of singular genres, decades, geographies, emotions and viscera. I manipulate text, song, dialogue and vocalization in an effort to expose the chaotic, conflictual and conversely innocent mode of communication between people.This strategy extends from years of practicing exercises typical to Grotowski, Meisner, Elevated Text and Action based text. I will continue to use these techniques to generate monologue, dialogue and discourse driven by my performers' (and my own) personal narratives. Narrative threads are ruptured by the shifting sensorial experience of coexistences. The lone word or gesture sits next to the chunky dense repeating text. They will either crash or transform or not go anywhere at all.