A Dancer's Tour of Duty

Iraq changed Marine Sergeant Roman Baca — ballet brought him back

Then a family of four gets on. A wife and husband and two little kids. And as the bus starts, her bag falls over. And I pick up her bag and I lean it against my leg so it won't fall again, and she looks at me and says, "Thank you," in broken English, and smiles. And then my traveling partner starts to play with one of the little kids, trying to make him laugh. And that's when I knew it was going to be a different sort of trip.

Through a grant from the U.S. State Department's cultural diplomacy program, we went to northern Iraq and did a dance workshop with 30 kids. Half of them were from Kirkuk, which is Arab, and half of them were from Arbil, which is Kurdish. We brought them together, and in five days the kids choreographed a dance about the struggles of being a young Iraqi, what it's like to live through a war, what they thought the Americans thought of them and what they thought of the Americans, and their hopes for a better future.

We performed that piece in a theater for 240 community members—their families and friends, people who saw our banner and came to the show, members of the Ministry of Culture in Iraq, and members of the U.S. Consulate in Arbil. And at the end of the performance, the families had just two questions: When were we coming back? And what city were we going to next?

VETERAN OF THE STAGE: Roman Baca in Manhattan, February, 2013.
Sam Zide
VETERAN OF THE STAGE: Roman Baca in Manhattan, February, 2013.
DRILL INSTRUCTOR: Roman Baca teaching an Exit12 Company class 
in February, 2013, at DANY Studios in Manhattan.
Kelly Schott
DRILL INSTRUCTOR: Roman Baca teaching an Exit12 Company class in February, 2013, at DANY Studios in Manhattan.

And so now we are planning another trip back to Iraq.

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3 comments
aguarrasi
aguarrasi

Inspiring! I love dance, the act of bringing communities together (especially thru art) and the reminder that we are all human and cherish life, good health and family. Congratulations on making your art your career...your life.

galeyc
galeyc

This is just an extraordinary story!  Roman Baca is just an amazing human being---I hope I have the good fortune to see your company very soon! Kudos to the writer Jonathan Wei---the best piece published  in the last few years in Village Voice--this is Pulitzer material! 

Binkconn
Binkconn

Wow, fellow New Mexican. Don't think I've heard of him.

 
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