Roman Baca not only choreographed the ballet Homecoming, he also danced in it. In the second movement, Baca (second from right) plays an Iraqi dad during a scene where the Marines have an altercation with an Iraqi family.
Roman Baca not only choreographed the ballet Homecoming, he also danced in it. In the second movement, Baca (second from right) plays an Iraqi dad during a scene where the Marines have an altercation with an Iraqi family. Brian Krontz
When former Marine Sgt. Roman Baca was on active duty in Fallujah, Iraq, he didn't tell a lot of people he was a ballet dancer.
"When I was in boot camp, I confided in three of my comrades, and told them that I was a ballet dancer and showed them some pictures," Baca tells NPR's Michele Norris. "Two of them were very interested and very intrigued by it and the third one never spoke to me again."
But now that he is back in the U.S., Baca has choreographed Homecoming, a ballet based on letters from loved ones to Americans serving in Iraq.
It opens with three women dancing to the words of a letter from a girlfriend to a loved one stationed in Fallujah: "I miss you. I miss us," she writes. "I miss everything about the life we used to live together. I know we're still together in spirit, but I miss the physical reality of you."
Baca says that the stories he heard while he was in Iraq of wives and girlfriends and mothers having to deal with Marines being so far away resonated with him.
"I felt that focusing on them would in turn highlight the soldier, but tell the story from a very human view," he says.
Zachary Maxwell Stertz
Former Marine Sgt. Roman Baca choreographed the ballet Homecoming when he returned from active duty in Iraq.
Former Marine Sgt. Roman Baca choreographed the ballet Homecoming when he returned from active duty in Iraq. Zachary Maxwell Stertz
Baca came up with the idea of choreographing Homecoming when he was halfway through his deployment. Baca, who arrived a few months after Operation Phantom Fury, when the Marines attempted to clear Fallujah of insurgents, was on post with his roommate and told him he was a ballet dancer.
"We were talking about the things that we would do when we got home and it came up that I was a dancer. I started telling him about this story that I wanted to tell about the Marines and the things we did over there," he says. "I didn't know how he would take it. And the next day we showed up on post, he had a pen and a piece of paper and he looked at me and said, 'We're going to write this down so we can get this done.'"