2019 Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture Awardee: Román Baca

Román Baca, a New Mexico native, is a classically trained ballet dancer and choreographer. In 2001, recognizing his desire to defend the defenseless, he took a hiatus from dance and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, serving as a machine-gunner and fire-team leader in Fallujah, Iraq during the Iraq War.

After the war, Mr. Baca returned to dance and co-founded Exit12 Dance Company, which tells veterans’ stories choreographically, to increase cross-cultural understanding and heal divisions. He has choreographed and championed dance works that explore the military veteran experience and the impact of war on civilians and families. Mr. Baca has presented his work at the 1st and 4th National Summits for the National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military, King’s College London, the Mayo Clinic’s Humanities in Healthcare Symposium, TEDXTUBerlin, TEDX San Antonio, TED@NYC, and is the choreographer and subject of the award-winning short documentary Exit 12: Moved by War produced by Square Inc.

He has also led choreographic workshops at schools, universities, and veteran’s centers to inspire military veterans, victims of war, and civilians through the power of dance.

Mr. Baca is currently submitting his thesis for the completion of an MFA in choreography at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London. His research at Trinity Laban is two-fold: to expand his practice and solidify his voice as a choreographer, and to research, choreographically, the methodology of increasing understanding of war trauma through live performative events.
Outside of his studies in London, Mr. Baca provided production support to the critically acclaimed play Soldier On’s UK tour including a six-week run on the West End.  Mr. Baca also served on the leadership team that delivered the first UK Veterans Art Festival alongside the 2019 UK Invictus Trials in Sheffield, UK.

Mr. Baca is the recipient of the 2017-2018 US-UK Fulbright Postgraduate Award to the Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London, a 2018 HillVet Nominee, a 2015 New York State Veterans’ Hall of Fame Inductee, an 2014 Art and Healing Network Awardee, and has served as a fellow with Veterans in Global Leadership, The Mission Continues, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

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