Juliana F. May

A Guggenheim and New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow, Juliana F. May has created ten works since 2002, including eight 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, The American Realness Festival and Abrons Arts Center. May has been awarded grants and residencies through The Map Fund, The Jerome Foundation, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Gibney Dance In Process and The Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography. In 2002, May received her BA in Dance and Art History from Oberlin College, and, in 2012, she received an MFA in Choreography from the University Wisconsin-Milwaukee. May served as the Artistic Advisor for New York Live Arts' Fresh Tracks Residency Program from 2017-2019 and has been on faculty at Sarah Lawrence College since 2017. Folk Incest, May’s most recent work was nominated for a 2019 New York Dance and Performance Award for outstanding production as well as touring to ImpulsTanz in Vienna, Austria.

Returning Choreographic Fellow | January 24 - February 5, 2023

Family Happiness

Returning Choreographic Fellow, Juliana May came back to MANCC this season after her 2018 residency for her previous work, Folk Incest, to further develop a new performance work entitled Family Happiness. Investigating Jewish aggression, unprocessed Jewish grief from the Holocaust, and current ramifications of those dynamics in Israel/Palestine, this piece continues May’s decade-long investigation into bodily control and the complicated system of victimhood and perpetration; prioritizing a space for culpability and catharsis.

May has long contended with the ways in which intergenerational Jewish trauma has played out in her upbringing, primarily through the lens of her maternal grandparents whose family members were imprisoned in concentration camps and subsequently fled Austria and Germany as teenagers to come to New York City.

While at MANCC, May further developed the ideas in the work, which she first began during the pandemic while in Tel Aviv. In addition to being a choreographer, May also includes a lot of text in her work and, with her collaborators, considered its integration along with set design, characters, settings, and the symbol of the beach as the image of fake Jewish utopic redemption, which becomes prominent in song lyrics that are sung throughout the show. 

In addition to working with her dancers and composer, May also collaborated with Anh Vo, a Vietnamese choreographer, dancer, theorist and activist, who creates dances and produces texts about pornography and queer relations. Vo joined May for three days as part of MANCC’s Embedded Writer Program.

May’s residency culminated in an open rehearsal, conducted in Dr. Irvin Gonzalez’s Contemporary Perspectives class. Participating students experienced the work-in-progress demonstration of Family Happiness and students were invited to ask questions about the development process of the piece after the rehearsal. 

Anh Vo’s participation is part of the Embedded Writer Program, which is funded, in part, by the Mellon Foundation. 

Juliana F. May/MAYDANCE’s Family Happiness will be co-presented by Abrons Art Center and The Chocolate Factory Theater from May 3 to 6, and 10 to 13, 2023.


  • <em>Family Happiness</em> rehearsal
  • <em>Family Happiness</em> rehearsal
  • Juliana May
  • Lucy Kaminsky
  • Tess Dworman and Lucy Kaminsky rehearse <em>Family Happiness</em>
  • Dworman and Kaminsky rehearse <em>Family Happiness</em>
  • <em>Family Happiness</em> rehearsal
  • Leslie Cuyjet in <em>Family Happiness</em> rehearsal
  • Juliana May directs vocal exploration for <em>Family Happiness</em>
  • May's collaborators explore vocalizations for <em>Family Happiness</em>
  • Embedded Writer Anh Vo observes <em>Family Happiness</em> process
  • Composer Tatyana Tenenbaum works with dancers in <em>Family Happiness</em> rehearsal
  • <em>Family Happiness</em> movement exploration
  • Leslie Cuyjet and Tess Dworman
  • Juliana May
  • Kayvon Pourazar and Molly Poerstel
  • Lucy Kaminsky
  • <em>Family Happiness</em> Rehearsal
  • Juliana May discusses <em>Family Happiness</em> in open rehearsal
  • <em>Family Happiness</em> open rehearsal
  • Molly Poerstel in <em>Family Happiness</em> open rehearsal
  • <em>Family Happiness</em> open rehearsal
  • May observes Pourazar and Cuyjet during the development of <em>Family Happiness</em>
Collaborators in Residence: Shana Crawford, Leslie Cuyjet, Tess Dworman, Lucy Kaminsky, Molly Poerstel, Kayvon Pourazar [Dancers], Tatyana Tenenbaum [Composer], Anh Quoc Vo [Writer]

Visiting Artist | May 12 -24, 2018

Folk Incest

Juliana F. May came to MANCC to develop her work, Folk Incest, a piece that explores uncomfortable arousal, sexual trauma, incest and the fetishization of young girls. Seeking to expose compulsivity as a mechanism for both coping and adapting to trauma, May is interested in looking at unconscious motivation and defensive operations like hyper vigilance in an effort to lament, re-perform, and admonish various systems of oppression that silence and make bodies invisible.

In keeping with her previous works, May continues to mine uncomfortable truths, revealing both their mundane and horrifying qualities. Exploring the residue of daily interactions, May seeks to expose unthinkable thoughts that fester unconsciously.

This project signals a shift in May’s practice, as she upends her long-standing, primarily physical practice. While still attending to formal choreographic concerns such as repetition and directionality, May’s choreographic strategies for this work will shift from specific movement languages to spoken subject matter to unearth a new practice.

While at MANCC, May and her collaborators continued to generate text, vocalizations, and images driven by their personal narratives. Content was then mapped through an iterative editing process. The finished work will be a play, a dance, a confessional, and a personal testimony compressed to create a new non-fiction.

At this phase of the project, May focused on three main points of departure: 1) the lineage of post-modernism in both dance and visual art, 2) the development of feminist theory, and 3) the ways trauma is physically housed and processed in the body. To further explore these concepts, May invited FSU’s Dr. Robin Truth Goodman, a professor of feminist literature, into the studio to see the work and discuss the aesthetics of feminism found in various forms of cultural production.

To develop the visual elements of the work, May worked with Sarah Jahnke, Manager of the Costume Shop in FSU’s School of Theatre, to explore make-up design ideas, and discuss trends, application techniques, and how makeup has been used historically.

Seeking inspiration from the medieval period, May and her cast also attended a local Renaissance Faire, a part of Southern Shakespeare Company’s annual Shakespeare Festival at Cascades Park. From this experience, May was inspired to write a sonnet-style song for the work.

At the end of the 12-day residency, May held a public work-in-progress showing, during which she experimented with a non-traditional seating arrangement.

As a part of MANCC’s Embedded Writers Initiative, May and her collaborators were joined in residence by Rennie McDougall. This initiative, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is designed to support the re-imagining of dance writing conventions in order to better respond to and engage with a wider range of ever-evolving contemporary forms in dance and performance. McDougall is a dance artist and writer who is intimately familiar with May’s work and process. At MANCC they continued their partnership to provide further context to May’s work.

Folk Incest will premiere at Abrons Art Center in New York City in the Fall of 2018.

  • Performers in residence for Juliana May's <i>Folk Incest</i>
  • Performers rehearse <i>Folk Incest</i>
  • Rennie McDougall, writer in residence
  • May and performers rehearse text
  • <i>Folk Incest</i> rehearsal
  • Molly Poerstel-Taylor
  • Dr. Robin Truth Goodman, a professor of feminist literature, visits studio
  • Lucy Kaminsky and Juliana May
  • Tatyana Tennenbaum, composer
  • Leslie Cuyjet
  • Juliana May and performers talk about text
  • <i>Folk Incest</i> showing for FSU and local community
  • <i>Folk Incest</i> showing
  • <i>Folk Incest</i> showing
  • Folk Incest</i> showing
  • Juliana May
  • Molly Poerstel-Taylor and Lucy Kaminsky
  • Lesli Cuyjet, Tess Dworman and Lucy Kaminsky
Collaborators in Residence: Sarah A.O. Rosner [Manager], Leslie Cuyjet, Lucy Kaminsky, Rebecca Wender, Tess Dworman and Molly Poerstel-Taylor [Performers], Tatyana Tennenbaum [Composer], Rennie McDougall [Writer].

Featured Artist

Faye Driscoll

February 22 - 24
Carolina Performing
Arts, UNC Chapel Hill


Click to close x