The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been violently ravaging the country of Iraq over the past few months, having made significant progress northward in only the past few days. They stalwartly tout their barbarous attacks, and social media has been abuzz with news of their atrocities. ISIS’s vicious actions have thrown the country of Iraq into a chasm of chaos and despair.
Right about now is when you are probably thinking: “Why is the Artistic Director of a Dance Company writing about the state of affairs in Iraq?”
You probably know that I served in Iraq as a US Marine in 2005. Did you know that I went back to Iraq in 2012 as a dance teaching artist?
In April of 2012, I returned to Iraq as a civilian artist and ran a Dancing to Connect program with young men and women from Kirkuk and Erbil, supported by a grant from the US Embassy Baghdad and ably supported on the ground by local partners. Jonathan Hollander of Battery Dance Company organized this program with Emad Salem supported by a fellowship from The Mission Continues.
During the program, we were treated with honor and respect by the people of Erbil, and were celebrated at the final performance in front of a packed audience. The product was a dance created by the workshop participants, and served as a snapshot of their lives ravaged by constant war and struggle, highlighted by the prospect of hope of a better future. Sircar, Halo, Lazo, Carmen, Hewa, Alan 1, Alan 2, Rawaz, Rabar, Dulshat, Hunar, Saman are some of the names of the 30 students that participated. We had a local interpreter who worked 16 hours a day, alongside Robin Cantrell and I, to make the program a success.
“The experience has left deep impressions for all of us and we are doing everything possible to establish solidarity with our DtC participants in Erbil and elsewhere in the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq against the monstrous forces of the so-called Islamic State or ISIS,” remarked Hollander from his studios in NYC.
Worried about the students, Jonathan and I have kept constant contact with them through social media and email. Just yesterday Halo Azad sent that, “the situation is now better cuz the peshmerga [Kurdish militia] controlled Makhmour and Qwer and the ppl in erbil are celebrating!”
This weekend Greater Hartford Ballet Theatre Company’s Jr. Company and BTC II will be traveling to Join Exit12 Dance Company in a recreation of the dance that was created in Erbil in 2012. We were invited to perform in the annualSummer Streets festival of New York City on the performance space at Foley Square Saturday August 16th at 10:30am.
The performance provides a window into the struggles of the populations of Northern Iraq who live in constant danger, invoking familiarity and empathy with the audience,
Exit12 will perform Conflict(ed), a work that suggests a common underlying humanity, despite the superficial differences of dress and culture. Exit12 will be joined by BTC students for Yarjuun, a Kurdish word for “hope” which originated in Iraq with Baca’s students in 2012. We reconstructed the dance to bridge cultures and expose a human view of the Iraqi youth.
It is opportunities like this that I hope set BTC apart, the BTC difference, that resonates in what we do, not only for our community, but our world.
Roman Baca, Artistic Director Exit12 Dance Company