“Veterans’ stories, beyond words, heal the world.” These are the first words that you see if you look at the EXIT 12 Dance Company website. There are many different artistic ways that veterans can treat their PTSD and acclimate themselves back into civilian life. However, EXIT 12 Dance Company focuses on bringing the effects of war to audiences. Through this, they break the divide between civilians and soldiers.
EXIT 12 Dance Company’s Mission
Roman Baca, the artistic director, founded this company with ballerinas, Lisa Fitzgerald and Lara Tant, after serving as a Marine in Iraq. Furthermore, EXIT 12 explains that it “is a contemporary dance company committed to creating and performing works of high cultural significance that inspire conversations about worldly differences and the lasting effects of violence and conflict on communities, families, and individuals. Through movement, we educate audiences about the reality of war, advocate diversity and mutual understanding through cultural exchange, and champion the humanity and dignity of all persons”. Additionally, Roman Baca explains that he brings Marines on stage with the dancers to challenge the audience.
Dance for Veterans
In an interview with Beast TV, Mr. Baca says that “veterans have so much to give”. This may seem obvious to anyone who knows a veteran. However, people don’t typically associate veterans with the dance world. Despite this, veterans surprisingly have so much to give to the world of ballet. What is great about ballet is that it also has so much that it can give to them. Mr. Baca explains that dance can give veterans the drive and perseverance they need to heal. Much like art therapy, dance allows veterans to express themselves and show others their experiences that they don’t want to say out loud. Choreography helped Mr. Baca heal after returning from his deployment. It helped him cope with all his emotions. EXIT 12 also holds veteran movement workshops to introduce veterans to dance for the first time.
What’s fascinating is that EXIT 12 is bringing back a variety of art therapy that has been forgotten. They are actually not the first company to perform ballets about the traumatic reality of war. The German choreographer, Kurt Jooss, created the ballet, “The Green Table,” in 1932, about the devasting effects that war has on a society, based on his experiences living through WWI. If you watch some of EXIT 12’s works, you can see that it is very reminiscent of “The Green Table”. Perhaps Kurt Jooss was onto something nearly 70 years ago with his ballet. In fact, because of the healing nature of dance, Mr. Baca was able to return to Iraq when EXIT 12 performed in Fallujah.
EXIT 12 is a unique dance company that is bridging the gap between military and civilian life. Through dance, they are able to paint a picture life in a war zone, while simultaneously aiding veterans.