Taja Will (pronouns Taja/they) is a queer, Latinx (Chilean) adoptee, performer, choreographer, somatic therapist and Healing Justice practitioner based in the Twin Cities (MN), on the stolen and occupied Dakota lands of Wahpekute and Anishinabewaki. Taja’s approach integrates improvisation, somatic modalities, text and vocals in contemporary performance. Their aesthetic is one of spontaneity, bold choice making, sonic and kinetic partnership and the ability to move in relationship to risk and intimacy. Will’s work explores visceral connections to current socio-cultural realities through ritual, archetypes and everyday magic.
‘[She’s] after connection. Looking at Will is like opening the door to a fire: [she] glows’ Lightsey Darst for MN Artists
Taja is a recent recipient of the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, in the dance field, awarded in 2021. Will’s work has been presented throughout the Twin Cities and across the United States. Including local performances at the Walker Art Center Choreographer’s Evening, the Red Eye Theater’s New Works 4 Weeks, the Radical Recess series, Right Here Showcase and the Candy Box Dance Festival. Will is the recipient of a 2018 McKnight Choreography Fellowship, administered by the Cowles Center and funded by The McKnight Foundation. Will has recently received support from the National Association of Latinx Arts & Culture, the Minnesota State Arts Board, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, and was a finalist for Queer Art’s(NYC) Eva Yaa Grant for Queer Women(+) Dance Artists.
As a performer Will has collaborated with Sara Shelton Mann, Rosy Simas Danse, Keith Hennessy, Aniccha Arts (Pramila Vasudevan), Deborah Jinza Thayer, Blake Nellis, Timmy Rehborg, Off Leash Area, Vanessa Voskuil, Body Cartography Project and Miguel Gutierrez among others. As an educator Will has been a guest teacher and adjunct faculty at several institutions across the United States, including University of Minnesota, Knox College, Hamline University, Zenon Dance School, Earthdance Creative Living, wcciJam, and the Lion’s Jaw Festival.
Taja maintains a dynamic Healing Justice practice that includes consulting with individuals, organizations, and communities in the context of workshops, conflict mediation, one-on-one somatic healing sessions, nervous system triage, board development and organizational cultural competency, and individual coaching on unwinding from white body supremacy culture. They ground their work in indigenous solidarity and decolonization as a means to undo white body supremacy and it’s pervasive relationship to capitalism, Taja is committed to working for healing and liberation of Black, Indigenous and people of color.
They have recently accepted the position of Equity & Justice Coordinator at Earthdance Creative Living, an artist retreat center in Western Massachusetts, on the ancestral lands of the Agawams, Pocumtuc, Nipmuck and Wabanaki Confederacy.
My work animates questions of identity.
I value seeing the body in a spectrum from virtuosic spontaneity to blunt gestural unison. My aesthetics insist on attention to revolving state-based material for example a sense of loneliness, or control, or tenderness, or humor, or dissonance, or ritual, or a combination; resulting in multi-dimensional layering of physical and vocal expressivity. Themes in my work comprise of collective humanity; how we exist in our mundane and extraordinary socio-cultural environments.
Identity is at the core of my values and how it unfolds defines my creative process. For Contact Quarterly, I wrote: “Folks with marginalized identities are somatically and psychically guarded, from generations past and a lifetime of systemic oppression; it is in the body and it will enter the dance.”
My first collaborations with Taja Will were characterized by devising, co-improvisations, and leanings toward the non-hierarchical, and yet even through those horizontal leadership structures I quickly developed the desire to be in a coaching and learning relation with Taja. Taja’s strength is complex and manifold. Taja’s laughter is incisive and is medicine. Taja is ready like water, to bathe you or swallow you or demonstrate the mystery of stillness or ebb with the rocking of the planet and its satellites… just like all the liquid in your body.
In both our artistic and personal partnerships, I have witnessed Taja wrought wisdom, compassion, mind-body fluency, and a well-practiced receptivity that I understand as not just receptivity to what is immediately perceivable, but as vision. These all are wrought into integrations that serve justice — a justice that is honest, complex and fluid to the needs of the moment and the persons in the circle.
The coaching and guidance that I received from Taja came at a pivotal moment in my artistic career, and a tumultuous moment in my personal life. Taja put a lot of energy into affirmations of boundaries, affirmations of present-moment-situation, affirmations of curiosity in the process.. all while simultaneously providing critical response to the technical aspects of my artmaking. Because of this guidance, I was able to accept that all moments and aspects of my experience would be part of the process, whether I liked it or not. Taja also modeled for me ways to articulate the inseparability of my values from my artistic compositions, and ways to evaluate how my values were showing up.
Creating arts and cultural works within the systems that we do is challenging. These systems drive artists like so many cattle from “opportunity” to “opportunity”, and ask us to establish categories that may not fit our work, our bodies, our experiences. For a long time, my career has been stuck in a liminal space between emerging and emerged, without the tools to vision myself outside of that framework. After the coaching agreement with Taja was completed and my work was witnessed, it was the first time that I was able to witness my own work with acceptance. I was able to break a pattern of harmful self-deprecation. I was able to see my own agency, and see my work as a point in a continuum. I am certain that I will experience the benefits of working with Taja Will for many years to come. – Kat Purcell activist, performance & installation artist, and Artistic Co-Director of Lightning Rod