By: Shabnam Quershi
Globe Hall held its fourth Athenaeum Symposia event in the fall 2013 speaker series on Tuesday, October 29th, 2013. From Ballet to Bullets and Back featured classical ballet dancer and former Marine, Roman Baca and his dance company Exit 12.
Baca decided to pursue classical and freelance dancing at the age of 21, he said. Shortly after pursuing his passion for dance, Baca joined the Marine Corps and traveled around Iraq in a Humvee, encountering many life-altering experiences, he said. Upon his return home, Baca said that he suffered from post-traumatic stress and founded the company Exit 12 as a way to reconnect with people, and the art that he had such a strong passion for. He explained that he founded Exit 12 as a means of diminishing the lasting effects of violence on young men and women engaged in war, and their families and friends.
The night’s events started promptly at 7 pm and the turnout was voluminous. Jason Franklin gave a short but inspiring biography of Baca. He spoke of how Baca brought two different groups of people together through music and dance. Franklin then introduced Exit 12’s first dance performance of the night.
The crowd was excited and watching attentively as the dancers lit up the stage with their performance. They delivered a synchronized dance skit which portrayed aspects of Baca’s life going into the Marines and fighting in Iraq. Sweat glistened off the dancer’s bodies as they delivered raw performances which evoked feelings of both melancholy and happiness from the audience. The unique choreography did not fail to raise goosebumps. Baca himself then came to the stage and revealed several intimate aspects of his life, such as what caused him to join the Marine Corps. He discussed that a certain experience in his early youth compelled him to pursue dancing and then join the forces, and that doing so allowed him to fight off ghosts of his past.
Baca may have suffered from post-war stress, but he considers his fellow soldiers as family, and remains a positive person due in part to his wife (who is also part of Exit 12) who prompted him to pursue his dream of starting his own dance company, he said. Baca mentioned that starting this company not only gave him purpose and meaning after the war, but also allowed him to help soldiers and families in similar situations reconnect with loved ones through art.
With the philanthropic goal of reigniting the power of art in young people, Baca is working globally with his dance team to spread news about the issues that the aftermath of war and violence has on people, he said. In April of 2012, Baca returned to Iraq as a civilian artist, and swapped his guns and weapons for dance clothes and music. His future goals include working with child soldiers through the use of dance and music, in hopes of rescuing them from their corrupted childhoods.
The night’s event wrapped up as the dancers bowed and, along with Baca, participated in an interactive Q & A session with the crowd. Roman Baca and his dance company Exit 12 are gaining quick popularity for all the right reasons, and inspire everyone to always have hope.