who we are & what we do

    2021 mentorship

Lisa Fagan
Juliana F. May

Workshop Details

July 26-30, 2021
9-12 PM

Target Margin Theater

232 52nd St 
Brooklyn, NY 11220

Sliding Scale
$0 / $75 / $150 / $300


Workshop Description

This workshop will steer us directly into the challenge of re-encountering a physical choreographic practice after a year or more away and/or distanced. We will move and make after prolonged inactivity, pain, anxiety and loss, and in our gathering, we will welcome ungrounded, bizarre, and new feelings that arise. The workshop will hold space to include the individual ways we have been shaped during the pandemic in order to find our collective way through to embodying reimagined practices. This workshop meets people wherever they are and whomever they are becoming.  

Lisa Fagan Lisa Fagan is a choreographer, director, and dancer based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been presented in NYC by Target Margin Theater (2019/20 Artist in Residence with composer Catherine Brookman), HERE Arts Center, Bard College (Choreographer: Promenade, Dir. Morgan Green), The Exponential Festival (2019/20 Exponential Fellow), Mabou Mines (Residency Artist Program with collaborator Hannah Mitchell) Ars Nova (ANT FEST), New York Live Arts (2017/18 Fresh Tracks Artist in Residence), Movement Research, Gibney, CPR, Roulette, and The 92nd Street Y, among others. Recently, she choreographed for the TV show THESE DAYS, premiering at Sundance 2021 featuring Marianne Rendon. As a performer she’s landed in theaters, museums, basements, shipping crates, walls, and on the Highline without permission. Fagan is also the creator/director of CAMP: Collaborative Arts Mobility Project, an experimental summer arts residency program for artists across disciplines entering its 6th season.

Juliana F. MayA Guggenheim and NYFA Fellow, Juliana F. May has created nine 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, Abrons Arts Center, Barnard College, The New School, Joyce SoHo, The American Realness Festival and ImPulsTanz. May has been awarded grants and residencies through The MAP Fund, The Jerome Foundation, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Gibney Dance In Process, Brooklyn Arts Exchange 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 2017-19 and has been on faculty at Sarah Lawrence College since 2017. Folk Incest, May's newest work, premiered at Abrons Arts Center in the Fall of 2018, with encore performances as a part of The American Realness festival and at ImpulsTanz, The Vienna International Dance Festival in 2019. Family Happiness will premiere in the fall of 2022 as a co-presentation between The Chocolate Factory Theater and Abrons Arts Center.

Workshop Souvenir

Lisa Fagan and Juliana May in Conversation
December 13th, 2020 – excerpts from conversation in black written down by Lena Engelstein
Additional transcriptions by Lisa Fagan in blue
Afterthoughts in pink

Lisa Fagan (LF)
Not trying to fit this into that
Wondering about how people are making
How they are wrapping their hands around making
I am feeling my own weak little hands around making
a wet fog hissed out
the fog makes it hard to move forward, backwards and side to side. Nothing has a definitive shape or color. Kinda this, kinda that, kinda kinda

Should I start texting random numbers until I can start a conversation with a stranger

Juliana F. May (JM)
Scissors, Maple syrup , Post it notes, Hebrew kit
Peoples objects. So much more interesting than my objects. Also what is a “kit” – does that just mean things that come in a box?

My nothing office not trying to fit this into that I honestly couldn’t tell you what I do here,

but I talk on the phone here, I water morgans plants here, I track lost or stolen packages, I drink coffee and have to pee. I play with the same paperclip over and over. I refresh my email.
Her plants her google home It responds to “hey computer.” Sometimes it turns itself on, presumibly when I say the word “computer” in a different context, somewhere in the apartment. lists without crosses
Hard drive water bottle security blanket im trying to get more hydrated. This feels like “my job”

My new york project does not exist yet Neither does mine yet, it’s the thing I am perpetually “working on” just simply by existing, and hoping that by existing through this i’ll come out the other end with enough material to make my new york project
I have no money for two projects
1 – 2 months of work on one project costs about $5000
Even if the research is funneling into one place
Im not trying to fit this into that. What if I just want to write songs?
Contenting with a deep desire for voice and writing songs  a song I remember making as a child:

Oh will you let us have some lettuce Oh can we please please eat some lettuce
Oh how we love to have some lettuce
So lettuce
Eat lettuce

the Juilliard of tel aviv will people in 500 years remember gaga
I had an Intense meeting with the Director  the capitalization of Intense here is Intense
Colored by a feeling of having to prove myself to this random person
And my work to you is not valid in context in Israel
Should I humble myself or is that not actually what I need to do starting over with someone new by saying “my name is ______ and I do _______” – is that something we ever grow out of? To refuse it past a certain point…maybe just because it’s incredibly annoying and we don’t want to be annoyed anymore.
That was a very 20s and 30s mentality for me

[regarding questions about voice as a motor for movement, voice memos, and songs]

I don’t even want the movement lately it’s hard to fight for movement, movement is the underdog
That is very uncomfortable now
I am interested in recording sound
Steve Reich and Joni Mitchell had a recording session
I just want to represent all these 70s movie recording studio sessions
Cheesy deep pop culture research cheesy deep pop culture research
Doing it alone feels not rigorous.
Light frame

I'm not doing anything
But when i speak out loud the nothingness of life
We think of rigor as something that is obvious and seen Rigor in isolation sounds good, obsessed, the savant at work, the artist cloistered in their cold stone tower, hacking away, unseen. The myth of the wild genius at work. The clockwork of the mind grinding eternally, even if the world burns.

It aligns with early pandemic theories I don’t remember what I meant by this (is perhaps late pandemic theory) (LPT)
A time of gathering
I had always thought if I had time to stop making for one second
I could let the world in in other words I would be enchanted with life and it would make the work better
But there are emotional roadblocks now around letting the world in
Our waking life is this pop culture
The solitary idea

Lena Engelstein (LE)
Fighting really hard for dance
The motor of quotidian movement which is what is available to us now
The walking on the river

Last night I watched the ballet Pulcinella orginally choreographed by Leonide Massine, this time made by Nils Chrite, set to music by Stravinsky premiered at the Paris Opera in 1920. Costumes and set designed by Picasso. Commissioned by Diaghilev.


In my 20s i make movement
I became bored by it
And excited by speaking and singing and narrative
Then I had babies my body couldn’t do what it was supposed to do
My body became this tertiary things
And that was really good for it in a way
The ways we identify ourselves
*****Old habits die hard unless you kill them******
My references are different

I spend hours in talking to my friends on the phone
Talking and chatting are so different
Hour long sprawling conversations
My brain gets tired
In the crustiest form what is happening for you

Movement being unachievable
Movement feels incredibly unattainable
I am doing these other things; writing, drawing
That's not really my form
My identity form will not attach to these others forms
Must keep the hierarchy intact

I did this video shoot on my roof
It’s the last thing in the entire universe I would want to do
Dancing on my roof
A unique form of torture
It was terrible and it was kind of interesting
It was a little bit of tearing through

Yesterday Morgan and I finished a final edit of the short piece on the roof and I like it. it might be good, actually.

I am working with Magda San Millan
For a decade we’ve been together making
Constant comparison and constant falling short
Beautiful terrible wonderful thing
Sometimes her work I love too much

You knit closer and closer together over the years
I’ve been doing a writing practice that she's been reading
Project shaping for the Abrons Application
Making a piece for Covid vaccine lines
They will definitely be there
This is the only audience that can be guaranteed

there will be a massive amount of fine print  to read

Who is the mommy or the daddy who is saying like
This is the value system with dance at the top
There is this desire to show off my craft that has always been a darling to kill. Now it got killed without my help. Am I sad?
And it is about beauty
I dont think its all bad
I love beauty
Your work is incredibly chaotic but also very organized
So wrought in the most thick dense way  discovery: I value thick dense
We’re able to see your hand as a composer there discovery: I value the visible hand of the composer
Which I think is very important
There is a singularity in what you do
Synch in repetition

Do you know Tatiana Tenebaum we met at an AUNTS thing at Brighton Beach two summers ago and it was fun
We’re both from Oberlin, she’s a composer
Everyone is trying to shed expectation of their work
We are writing a music grant for dance
There will be a time for dance
You can't lose it
You can undo it for a while

When I was up there on the roof in agony I am melodramatic?
There was a big black marker that delineated how far my body could go
I thought I can't do anything unless I really train again
But there are so many more things we can do
I have insane limitations
A lot of what I have been absorbing
I have a hard time looking at post modern dance
I have been watching a lot of ballet
    Last night all I wanted to watch some dance that felt like “art” online somehow, but I ended up watching ballet and feeling dissapointed.
There is sense in that
With post-modern dance I feel like what is this
what are we looking

There is excitement in reality
The move toward meaning making in a specific and direct way
I’m looking for a one to one correspondence
This is my idea and this is how i'm going to do it
The abstraction piece is the outcome
It can be read in any way
    Clear idea + clear idea + perspective + questioning; “moving towards meaning making in a specific and direct way.”
Which is about interpretation
Which is about viewership
Do you know this woman who wrote “Against Interpretation” Susan Sontag
Which is like the definition of whiteness
Its liberating to be in a place of meaning

These are some basic questions I came up with-
Abstraction, what is that now, where does it live
Is it okay to make abstract art?  Internal echochamber because people were saying yes / audience wouldn’t get lost. But we’re in our silos now
Does abstraction have to change? There’s excitement in reality
Will my thoughts be different or the same?
What I’ve been considering as auxiliary practices don’t have to be
Like Cello, it's in my room and it’s there
It's a cold hard instrument and yet there is the heirarchy
That's the hierarchy that I've built for myself

What is this obsession with the narrowness I have to be this and so I cant be that too
I feel happily attached to the idea of choreographer because I honestly just love making dances and I don’t say that aloud enough or express my gratitude towards making dance enough

Cello wow

Its been a thing gathering dust
Literally instrument

Anne hathaway as a bipolar character on the TV show of Modern Love
I was obsessed with musical theater
Joesph and the Amazing Technicolor Coat
80s synth musical
Andrew lloyd weber is a joke but can’t get enough Don’t watch recent remake of CATS if you value your time

Do you feel like you're going backwards towards things that you like(d) to do when you were young specifically an adolescent

A real want for my work to be nostalgic
Pop culture pop music
All we have is our memories

The move towards meaning-making is irresistable. A 1 to 1 correspondence (the thing you meant to say (1) to the thing that is said (1))

The abstraction piece is the outcome. It’s post modern to not interpret. The definition of whiteness- “it just is” – you are just the given, interpretation doesn’t exist

I’ve always felt that nostalgia is the enemy going back / return/ want for my work to be nostalgic. Is it ok to be nostalgic?
If I could capture through the net all the nostalgic material it would be so harebrained
But I'm obsessed with these old things
White men writing a certain style

What about the writing do you like?

This departure from sentimentality cold/hard/unfeeling
The sentiment came from beautiful language masculine?
I am a total Tolkien nerd I idolized my male friends older brothers

There were people growing up and who were continually unpacking musicals

What is it about those stories that makes you come alive

The epic nature of them
What was accomplished was absolutely huge
It was a life of toil
Unbelievable practice of world making
It is unattainable and it is precise
Ties up every knot
A return to being taken care of as an audience member – not being abandoned
Bowles too has this insane tightness
It was like reading the master
I felt like I have to learn to love that and I did
The stories are mastery this is the best that the human mind can create

Serious and provocative content why did I LOL
Folk incest was like tits out nazis and jews going down on each other
There is something about that being provocative pushing against interpretation  we don’t want to fully interpret something that’s scary, it’s easier to say safetly inside abstraction
It is very jarring to receive that information
Where it makes you question like, Is that what shes saying
Now I want to make work with concrete, simple narrative thrust
I spent so long breaking protocol and now have come around to where no, actually
protocol is okay

My earlier work really rubbed against people

I think that is what dance making is
Care for the bodies of the people eating together, massaging sore muscles. That is love.
Early theater rehearsals are like sitting, staring, listening, and rules
But the choreographers job is to provide a good space for people
Leah cox dialogue
Smacking hands

Supremacist language that is embedded in the language of contact teachers
90s contact dudes
Someone i witnessed in that Juilliard rehearsal
I want to be aware of that in teaching

Contact improvisation
Conflict is not abuse Sarah Schulman – Conflict is not Abuse

Hyper vigilance around consent trigger warnings
I can't wait to see the fucked up shit people make

I keep pretending im doing to day 1 of rehearsal
Pretend like none of this happened and then watch as you can’t
The depth of experience will unveil itself the bottom of the world has falled out 3,4,5 times already. Our bodies being there (in space, in a place doing something) will bring the whole world, will being ingredient x (powerpuff girls)
sheer inspiration, sheer go
the void of intake
With the consent of the room let's start
I won’t have much control

Unfortunate binary
Propping up the heaven principle
There was no agency as active collaborators

I black out for these interviews
Your body and you skin color
There is an escape in the nothingness of whiteness
A big part of the conversation for me
The blackness in the work

Another conversation about the workshop
All of these ideas really feed into questions about what it means to make work now
We can distill some of them for a thought about what this workshop will be
Maybe it’s a workshop in committing to, moving towards “a simple narrative thrust” or a “1 to 1 ratio,” or nostalgia and meaning and ingredient x. Maybe it’s about avoiding abstractoin with all your might, only to stumble into it anyway after desperately trying to make meaning. It’s about picking something and JUST SAYING GO

Mining from nostalgia
That topic was a hot pan
I don’t like what i said
Why am i so allergic to

The fucked-upness of postmodernism
Nostalgic mixed with robotic melancholia

Witnessing the non idea as it struggles to take shape


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