Taja Will (Choreographer)
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.
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.
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.
Marisol Herling (she/her) (Performer, Collaborator) graduated in 2014 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a B.A. in Dance. During her time in Lincoln she danced for sloDance, whose work was presented around the state of Nebraska as well as touring to Vermont and Colorado. Marisol was also a founder of the dance collective embi. While working as a teaching artist and performer with embi and sloDance, Marisol was a guest faculty for the dance program at UNL and a resident guest artist for University of Nebraska-Kearney. Marisol relocated to the twin cities in 2018. In the fall of 2018, she produced, choreographed, and performed in a show for the Minnesota Fringe Festival. She has collaborated with Chris Schlichting and Anat Shinar and is currently a part of Taja Will’s project, Blood Language, as well as Jennifer Glaw’s new work TouchCode.
Margaret Ogas (she/her) (Performer, Collaborator) is a dancer and choreographer based in Minneapolis who makes funky, spunky, socially engaged work. She is a proud midwestern Chicana hailing from Milwaukee, WI. Margaret has presented her choreography at the Walker Art Center, the Cedar Cultural Center, The Minnesota Museum of American Art, 9×22 Dance Lab, Regis Center for Art, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) and on sidewalks in South Minneapolis. She recently presented her first dance film, “Rise y Resiste: 50 Years of Movimiento” in collaboration with videographer Luisa Armendariz, commissioned by the University of Minnesota’s Chicano & Latino Studies Department. As a performer, Margaret has worked with Chris Schlichting, Laurie Van Wieren, and is a current ensemble member of Taja Will’s Blood Language. She holds a BFA in Dance from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Julia Gay (she/they) (Collaborator) is a dancer, playwright and stand-up comedian. She is a Chinese adoptee who writes and creates to bridge the vastness between memory, heart and home. Julia has been a dancer with Ananya Dance Theatre since 2016 and was the recipient of The Playwrights’ Center’s 2017-18 Many Voices Mentorship. In October 2019, as part of Dreamland Arts’ Theaterwalla program, Julia produced her one-woman show, Motherlanded, exploring her personal narrative as a Chinese adoptee. Learn more about her work at www.juliagay.com.
Marcela Michelle (she/her) (Rehearsal Director) was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas on Payaya land, and now lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Dakota land. She identifies most with Black/Indigenous/Mexican American communities, Trans/Queer/Lesbian-Identified communities, and various intersections therin. She is currently the Artistic Director of 20% Theatre Company, now in it’s 15th and final season. She is also the Artistic Co-Director and Director of Programming for Lightning Rod – a Trans-led arts organization. Lightning Rod is focused on legacy, development, and opportunity for QTGNC Artists and Activists. Marcela has curated or co-curated a number of performance events including The Minneapolis Burlesque Festival, Mixed Blood’s On Our Own Terms Transgender Play Festival, for Guthrie’s Dowling Studio – body fail body , and for 20% Theatre – The Naked I, Controlled Burn, Q-STAGE New Works Series, and Exposition: Queer Performance and Conversation. As an educator/facilitator Marcela has worked with Walker Art Center, Uprising Theatre, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Macalester College, Augsburg University, Hamline University, and the University of Houston. Her performance work focuses primarily on simultaneity, im/mutability, and the platonic ideal host.
Jaffa Aharonov (he/him or they/them) (Website Designer) is a queer, trans, and multiracial transmedia artist and web designer currently living in Minneapolis. Collaborators include Kelley Meister, Taja Will, and Annicha Arts.
Brandon Musser (he/him) (Composer, Sound Design) is a Minneapolis based audio artist who has created over thirty works for dance since 2015. Prior to working with dance, Musser spent six years producing records and touring nationally with ensembles: Divorce, oldfears, Nevada Mountains, and Sikes and The New Violence. His personal practice is focused on creating works that investigate codependency and power between performer and viewer by studying relationships among execution of intent and performance fulfillment. Musser’s audio credits include works for: Alexandra Bodnarchuk, Taja Will, Black Label Movement, and James Sewell Ballet.
Genevieve Draškocí Johnson (she/they) (Company Administrator) is a queer mom, child of a tri-lingual immigrant, dance artist, burlesque performer, administrative professional and activist based out of Minneapolis. GG has performed in, choreographed, produced, directed and managed various productions and classes over a 21-year professional dance career including for St. Mary’s University, American College Dance Festival, Rhythmically Speaking, 9×22 Dance Lab, Fresh Oysters and with artists such as Brian Evans, Erinn Liebhard, Rush Benson, Pedro Pablo, and Akiko Ostlund. GG is a current member of the dance collective, Viva La Pepa and has been working with Taja for over 2 years. She strives to support the transformative work of local Queer, AAPI, Southeast Asian, BIPOC, GNC and Latinx community artists and works to honor ancestry as a white settler on Dakohta lands.
Gratitude & acknowledgement to musician and composer Michael Wall, his music drives many of the archetypes and while not a direct collaborator for this project we are moved by him and seek to credit him along the way. For more information or to access his monthly music subscriptions and libraries please visit soundFORMovement
Throughout the process we had several additional collaborators, some of their contributions have influenced the work made, and some will remain ephemeral moments seen only in live performance iterations. Thank you Carlisle Evans Peck, Laura Larson, Anat Shinar, and Kenyai O’Neal. Gratitude to the Cowles Center Generating Room Residency, Mathew Janczewski and the Candy Box Festival, the Walker Art Center’s Terrace Thursdays, and New Movement Collaborative who produced and supported work-in-progress versions of this piece. This work was funded in part by 100+ individual donors, the National Association Latino Arts and Culture, and Minnesota State Arts Board.
The Taja Will Ensemble is fiscally sponsored by Pangea World Theater, and extends immense gratitude to it’s advisory committee Mathew Janczewski, Brian Evans, Christy Bolingbroke and Michele Steinwald.
Taja Will is a fiscal year 2020 recipient of the Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Headshot Photo Credits: (Photographer: Ensemble Member)
Nanne Sorvold: Taja Will, Isabel Fajardo: Marisol Herling, Marggie Ogas & Marcela Michelle, Ryan Stopera: Julia Gay. Additional headshots courtesy of the collaborator.
Archetype Photo Credits:
Isabel Fajardo (LOVER, SIREN, ALCHEMIST, SHADOW, VIRGIN, RED SHEET) Taja Will (Rose ritual imagery), FARMER and COMIC photos courtesy of Julia Gay.