Albuquerque native’s dance company helping veterans process war trauma

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque native is taking his dance company around the world. He’s helping fellow veterans heal from the trauma of war, through movement.

Román Baca has always had a passion for dance. So much so, it took him to New York as a professional ballet dancer, until life took him in another direction. “A couple years after dancing as a professional dancer, I wasn’t fulfilled. I didn’t feel like I was helping others,” said Baca. “I felt that the organization that could help me do that and give me the tools to do that was the United States Marine Corps.”

Baca served in the Iraq War in 2005. Upon returning home, he struggled. “It was hard coming back. I didn’t see these things in me, my wife did, and she said, ‘you’re angry, you’re depressed, you’re anxious,'” recalled Baca. “She saw I unsettled and unfocused.”

His wife suggested he return to the arts as a way to process the trauma of war, and Exit 12 Dance Company was born. Baca says it was a while before they focused the company on the military experience, working with veterans and their family members to work out their own stories and trauma through movement.

“Dance is not the easiest word to introduce to anyone, much less a veteran,” said Baca. “We get them involved with writing first and we change that writing into movement.”

Baca has since received a Fulbright scholarship and moved the company to London, where he’s worked with veterans everywhere from Nigeria to Ukraine. In recent weeks, he’s brought the experience back home to New Mexico.

“I’ve always wanted to share my work with my hometown,” said Baca. “This is the place where I learned how to dance and gained those tools to impact people through art.”

Through workshops around the state, Exit 12 has been able to create this artistic expression, involving indigenous influence. Baca hopes as we honor the brave who gave the ultimate sacrifice this weekend, we can shed a light on the people who also helped serve and remember that experience through art and dance.

“The people that came and the inspiration that they gave us lead us to point our choreographic lens at the native people, the Pueblo people, the indigenous people,” said Baca. “There are countless people from these nations that have served our country.”

Exit 12 is premiering their New Mexico workshop footage tomorrow. You can catch it online or through New Mexico PBS at 10 a.m.

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