Taja Will Artist

TEACHING

VALUES

My facilitation is grounded in a restorative justice pedagogy and mobilized through somatic practices, structures of solo/ensemble improvisation, Contact Improvisation, emergent rituals and everyday magic. Within a class and laboratory structure I’m interested in bringing increased awareness to the patterns of privilege, power, and historical marginalization for greater potential to create braver more inclusive spaces for embodied learning. 

Restorative justice in this context is a lens that asks for awareness and acknowledgement of systems of power, cultural patterns of privilege, and the historical marginalization of individuals who are BIPOC, queer, nonbinary, trans and artists with visible/invisible disabilities. In class I invite direct and verbal reflections from each individual to the group of their awareness of intersectional privilege and draw connections on how that informs our embodied choice making. I believe in our ability to shift toward greater equity in an embodied, co-learning space.

In the era of #MeToo, I am committed to boldly transparent consent practices in touch-based dance forms. It is my intention to develop this awareness in every class, for the potential of bolder, braver spaces of intentional touch and connection.

Isabel Fajardo Photography

TESTIMONIAL

“This experience has greatly impacted my values, equity, and advocacy. I have gained many values from this experience but I would like to speak on two specific values that have impacted me most. Recognizing privilege, specifically my own privilege, has been eye opening for me. It helps me understand that things that I consider to be a given in my life are just as much a privilege as important aspects of my life. Alongside this value in recognizing privilege, I have also acquired a value in creating “snug” (safer) spaces for people to be in.” Addie Guenther 2019-2020 Dance Production Class at the University of Minnesota

“I was so moved by my experience in Taja’s workshop and was still thinking about the class almost a week after it happened. I still think about it. Taja is a beautiful space holder–so intentional in worlds, energy and action. The workshop itself felt like a piece of art that I got to be a part of. From beginning to end, there was such intention, such embodiment, such responsiveness to what was being called for in the moment. That’s part of Taja’s magic: being attuned to what the moment calls for. I would absolutely recommend working with Taja. You will be transformed.” grey doolin – healer, mentor, activist-educator

CLASSES

Class descriptions: While each class is tailored to the community of participants and culture of the organization/festival/presenter these are examples of past classes which still feel at the peak of my interest and values.

Contact Improvisation // Radical Humanitarianism

Accountability in connection,
Bodies as protest,
Attention as magic,
Rigor as necessity.

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.

This class is a mutation of contact improvisation; my practice of CI is interested in the potential range of intimacy through limbic and energetic chemistry. This lens pushes us beyond the foundations of technique, it is inclusive to the histories that live in the room and in our DNA. We’ll practice our instincts around attraction and repulsion regarding the power dynamics in space. Together we can attempt to reclaim discernment within the practice and have deeper potential for listening, relating and being accountable within our dances. I believe as we have greater access to one’s own agency we build safe space within our practice and this brings healing and liberation.

Laboratory for the Three Dimensional Performer
  • Lab 1 : Choreography of the Eyes // Intimacy in Seeing
    • Laboratory: A place to investigate ideas, ask questions, attempt research, fail, succeed, hypothesize and repeat.
      • I am curious about the potential for performance that includes the eyes. In this lab we’ll work with seeing and not seeing, directing the eyes, eyes directing the face and engaging with the somatic intelligence of the skull and neck. We’ll work with textures of sight; soft focus and sharp focus. What happens if we look at each other, at the space, at ourselves? What does the word gaze mean?

  • Lab 2 : Choreography for the Face & Throat // Flamboyance
    • This lab plans to investigate the voice and character as tools to access our range of presence and three dimensional awareness. In the realm of voice we’ll engage with lip sync, sing along, vocal reflex and vocal range. To play with character we’ll try on opera singer, pop star, sports announcer, auctioneer and customer service representative as ways to engage voice with character. This lab will be light and playful, musical and imaginative with the intention of stretching to exaggeration.
Ensemble Improvisation and Pedagogy

This workshop will ebb and flow between state-based explorations intended to hone an ensemble and discussions around ensemble improvisation and pedagogy. In this context pedagogy can be defined as modalities or techniques for teaching/education or as the underlying skillset taught to an ensemble of dancers for the purposes of chemistry and performance cohesion. What has to happen for performers to love and trust each other in a creative process? What has to happen to guarantee they can track each other’s choices in an improvisational environment.

Rigor, Clarity & Magic

This workshop dives into the cultivation of human intimacy and risk-taking. Rigorously deepening our movement relationships with self, other and space, we will direct our attention both inward and outward to create a dynamic conversation with our movement impulses. We will use the compositional mind in solo/duet/ensemble explorations, somatic modalities, and improvisational structures such as the Tuning Score, Viewpoints and elements of Contact Improvisation to fine-tune our personal movement practices. Bring curiosity and clarity. Come ready to open to your surprising potential in practice and artistry.

This is an open level workshop; no prior experience is needed in composition or Contact Improvisation. ( Originally conceived an taught with Blake Nellis)

Contact Improvisation : Athletics of Connection

This research-based workshop is aimed at testing the edges of intimate connections as a performance skill. Within an improvisational performance structure the body’s ability, technical skills and creative impulses underlie the magnetism of human connection. Together we will cultivate solo movement desires and then bring them into a spacious and listening relationship with others. We will work within the fields of energetic projection and communication, while practicing an honest vulnerability. Gaze will play a lead role in how we direct focus and teach others to view us as we invite being seen. The magic of improvisation and spontaneity is the embodied practice of relating to self, other and the world.

Nanne Sorvold Photography
Contact Improvisation : Attention to Backspace

Dancing from the back of the body – scapula to fingertips, sacrum to toes.

In this workshop we will settle our weight with gravity through the middle and back of the foot, walk backwards and let the eyes in the back of our heads’ guide us. We’ll use simple and familiar pathways to open and create ease in using the backspace. This tool assists in countering an everyday posturing, familiar to the present day body. It also encourages movement choices made for a three dimensional dance sphere.

Contact Improvisation : Entering and Escaping

​This class investigates the skills of navigating a jam space. How do we Enter a dance? We will actively try multiple strategies for beginning dances with each other. We’ll warm up our attention to grazing, textures of touch, energetic attunement and accidental joining. Escaping could mean setting a boundary, it could be leaving a dance. We’ll practice saying yes and no through movement, prioritizing our personal desires and safety needs within our contact connections. We’ll integrate these skills through a mixer of short dances leading into a jam.

Nanne Sorvold Photography

Taja (pronouns Taja/they) has been a guest teacher and adjunct faculty at several institutions locally and throughout the United States. Including coursework or workshops at University of Minnesota, Hamline University, Luther College, Knox College, Earthdance Creative Living, Moving Arts Lab, Sierra Contact Festival, wcciJam, Dance New England, Zenon Dance School, the Peaceable Barn, and the Lion's Jaw Festival among others.