Luther alumni Taja Will is currently based in Minneapolis, Minnesota working in the healing, performing and social justice arts. Will is performing, composing improvisational performance and frequently offering movement workshops. In addition to the performing arts, Will maintains a private practice as an Integral Energy Medicine practitioner with modalities of developmental psychotherapy and somatic bodywork. For more on Will click here.
I have to admit I’ve tried multiple times to fill out this survey and find it impossible to put into words how I feel about the Movement Fundamentals curriculum. Not just because I came from a classical technique background, but also because this curriculum literally saved my life.
Freshman year, after years of misuse to my body from high school Athletics, I became paralyzed from the waist down, causing me to take many weeks of school off and go home to Fort Dodge, Iowa. Doctors said I may need my vertebrae fused together and others couldn’t figure out what happened. Still unable to walk I refused all medical treatment and months later returned to Luther in a terrible state, unable to stand, walk or sit for periods of longer than 20 minutes. It was Bob Larson who directed me to former Theater/Dance faculty Shannon Bierly.
Over the next year Shannon, unknowingly, facilitated my complete rehabilitation and introduced my body to curriculum. This sounds cliché but this curriculum changed my entire life; my mindset, somatic learning opens a whole new field for perception of how the body coexists with itself, other and the world. I wasn’t taught how to do ‘dance’, I was taught to know my body, to be intentional about how to keep it working efficiently and from there I was able to extend that knowledge into a creative practice, from this program emerges more than a body trained to dance, it trains artists.
To say a few (immodest) words about where I am now...I am a professional dancer/choreographer based in Minneapolis, Minn. Recipient of the 2010 Keeper Award for Outstanding Artist in the Twin Cities, I have produced multiple evening length works and received commissions from venues throughout the Metro area including the Red Eye Theater, Walker Art Center, Ritz Theater, Bryant Lake Bowl and Patrick’s Cabaret. I am based in Minneapolis both performing and teaching and travel often to teach workshops and perform throughout the U.S. and internationally.
I don’t think I can say much more except for I blindly believe in this curriculum, which is not to say that I don’t continue to ask questions about it; when you are truly called to something you must continue to question it, challenge it, to expand your practice and understanding.
One last thing, through my travels and teaching, I can confidently say this program is completely unique and revolutionary; it is young but not new. Similar pieces exist most places but not the depth in which Jane has formed this program. She is rigorous and trusts the work and each student’s ability to meet the work where they are, a combination that has the power to shift the ‘dance program’ paradigm.