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Conflict and dance: Trinity Laban and King’s War Studies explore impact of military training

Mon 19 November 2018

The effects of military training on the mind, body and individual are explored in a new choreographic work from Roman Baca, Trinity Laban Fulbright Scholar and United States Marine veteran.

On Wednesday 21 November, Baca’s immersive dance installation will be performed by Trinity Laban dance students and alumni at The Exchange, Bush House on King’s College London’s Strand Campus.

This installation is part of a larger work to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring which brings together military veterans with dancers, musicians and artists to evaluate how training for war impacts on the individual.

Taking pages from the training manuals used to prepare for major conflicts, Baca’s choreographic investigation invites members of the audience to get up close and participate with several exercises. Audience members can choose varying levels of participation, giving them a personal experience of the power of ritual, sacrifice, and military training.

Roman Baca is currently enrolled on the two-year MFA Choreography at Trinity Laban. He originally trained as a dancer with The Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory in Connecticut, before feeling compelled to serve his country.

Baca joined the United States Marines in 2000 and in 2005 was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, where he served as a machine gunner and fire team leader and undertook humanitarian work, before returning to civilian life in 2007. He formed Exit12 Dance Company and began to get involved in arts projects with military veterans while also returning overseas to lead dance workshops with young Iraqis.

The November performance will be followed by a Q&A with Baca, Stefan Schilling (PhD Candidate & Teaching Fellow at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, Defence Academy, UK) and Melissa Abecassis, who spent three years in Israel/Palestine and works to facilitate dialogue and conflict transformation through non-violent communication.

The panel will be chaired by Trinity Laban alumnus Jayne Peake, Programming Manager for The Exchange, who is also organising workshops for students studying conflict and peacebuilding using basic Contact Improvisation skills. The classes explore how Contact Improvisation can serve as a vehicle for reconciliation, and how it challenges what is imagined as reconciliation in the first place.

“It is my hope that by offering students a kinaesthetic exploration of complex themes, such as post-conflict reconciliation, new perspectives are formed, current perspectives are challenged and alternative pathways are made possible for the future generation of peace-builders,” Jayne says.

The event is part of an exhibition, Reconciliationsrunning in parallel at the Exchange, Bush House, King’s College London from 1 November-1 December 2018, and at the Knapp Gallery, Regent’s University London, from 1 November 2018-19 January 2019.

The event and exhibition are part of an AHRC-funded Art & Reconciliation project based in the Arts and Conflict Hub within the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, which connects researchers and artists to communicate, teach and research the complexities of conflict.  

Jayne adds – 

“Roman’s work demonstrates his own process of reconciliation as a trained dancer, then US Marine, and now as a choreographer working with material that explores the possibility of reconciliation for veterans, as they transition back into civilian life.

I got involved in Art & Reconciliation after co-producing ‘Dancing Traces of War’ with Candoco and the Soldiers Arts Academy working with war veterans, Cando2 and students studying War Studies at King’s. This project had such a profound impact on me, the participants, King’s academics and the general public, that it sparked a hunger to continue developing collaborations between this unlikely partnership – dance and War Studies.”

Tickets for Reconciling Experience: Dance excerpt, Q&A and reception on Wednesday 21 November, 6.30pm are free and available to book through King’s College London.

(Image credit: Matthew Harding)