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How do you be a marine in a war zone – and – a human being?

This was the question Román Baca asked himself when he returned from Iraq.

In this month to contemplate the place that violence in our times, I was intrigued by how Baca worked through, or worked out his experience of violence: he used the language of dance to translate it to himself and to express it to others.

Olivia Hains writes, “Román Baca returned from war a changed man. Struggling with depression and anxiety after a combat tour to Fallujah, Iraq, from 2005 to 2006, Baca took his adversity by storm and created the New York based dance company Exit12.”

The Belief that Art Heals

Baca and Exit12 now provide dance and performance workshops to veterans and their loved ones with this notion:

Devoted to the belief that art heals, the workshops allow a safe place for veterans to communicate often ineffable memories of war, and to process trauma through the language of dance.

In the production “Moved by War”, Baca creatively uses dance, as Hains puts it, to repurpose the skills of military training:

The choreography of battle is repurposed by Baca and his fellow dancers, who reclaim their military training by liberating it from the strictures of combat. Now, this same training to kill inspires artistic expression, giving the veterans an opportunity to transform their experiences and reconnect with their humanity.

For the full article by Olivia Hains, see, “How the language of dance enables war veterans to process trauma.”

The Art of War

In the post noted in the heading above, I said,

Art has a way of telling a story where words fail us – when words get in the way.

Of course I was talking about visual art, but then again, dance is a visual art, a moving painting so to speak. I did not grow up exposed to creative dance; the first time I saw a worship dance presentation in a church I was visiting, it took my breath away.  I was not ready for the powerful speech that a dance could communicate.

Unlike the sensual expressions in “Dancing with the Stars”, or “So you think you can dance?”, and a host of other popular dance shows today, here is dance not intended to be sexually provocative. Here is dance that intends to provoke an entirely different conversation.

Moved by War may allow “a safe place for war veterans to communicate often ineffable memories of war, and to process trauma”, but it also allows others to enter the lingering pain of Baca who has managed to transform the ugliness of war into some elements of beautiful speech.

The Lord of the Dance

How has art healed you? What does dance do for you? I am reminded of the hymn “The Lord of the Dance” written by Sydney Carter in 1963:

I danced in the morning
When the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon
And the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven
And I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem I had my birth.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

Dance Then

Dance yourself out of war

Dance to listen and to speak

Dance with others into peace

Dance to understand a little more

Dance with the Prince of Peace

Dance into the One who made you.