The Dance Enthusiast's Social Distance Dance Video Series: A Documentary, Exit 12: Moved by War
After two tours in Fallujah during the Iraq War, US Marine and Combat Veteran Román Baca came home ravaged with depression, anxiety, and anger. With few places to turn, Román went back to his first passion, ballet, as a way to cope — and discovered that through dance he was able to “reprogram” himself and begin to heal.
This inspired Roman to start Exit 12 — a New York-based dance company led by Veterans and military families. Through dance and choreography, Exit 12 tells stories about the effects of war — both to heal themselves and also to change the perceptions and stereotypes of the Veteran community. -from the Vimeo website.
Román Baca is a veteran of the US Marine Corps and a New York State Veteran’s Hall of Fame Inductee. He's also a ballet dancer, and founder/artistic director of a contemporary dance company called Exit12. Ok, you can do your double take now. It’s an unusual background. Yet, in my interview with Baca, the New Mexico native (with a fondness for his home states’ chili peppers) tells me that his Russian ballet teachers yelled at him just as much as his drill instructors did. He also claims that ballet training and military training are quite similar.
Today, Exit12 (named after the exit off the FDR taken to get to the company’s first rehearsal studio, STEPS) is dedicated to peace and serving others. Baca uses dance performance and movement workshops to enter into conversations about the lasting effects of violence and conflict. His work speaks of the reality of war and champions peace, human dignity, diversity, cultural exchange, and mutual understanding.
Says Baca, “I think my service in the military was essential to who I am. I don't think I would be striving, each and every day, for peace through art if I hadn't experienced war first-hand. That's not for everyone, it's just what propelled me forward. I hope that my service in war happened, so that others do not have to go to war.”
Exit12’s workshops for veterans help to create community, to build self-esteem, and to transform trauma into expressive movement. Baca’s vital healing work is featured in the powerful short documentary Exit 12: Moved by War a recent addition to The Dance Enthusiast’s Social Distance Dance Series.
This year, very publicly on social media, Baca, always a helper, documented his experience with COVID-19 to combat ignorance and encourage anyone who shared his symptoms to get help when necessary.
I was fortunate to speak to Román Baca, who was a little weak, but recovered from COVID-19. He inspired me to create a new type of q+a on The Dance Enthusiast, one in which I talk to moving artists who work to heal, empower and inspire beyond their artform.
To read our full interview click here.
Enjoy this powerful documentary.