DANCE TROOP­ERS

Bring­ing to­gether dance and com­bat, ex­tra­or­di­nary new show 10 SOLDIERS ex­plores the emo­tional and phys­i­cal frailty of the hu­man body

EDP Norfolk - - EDP NOR­FOLK MAGAZINE - WORDS: Rachel Buller

Pri­vate dancer:

Dif­fer­ent stage for a Nor­folk sol­dier

They may seem worlds apart, yet the par­al­lels be­tween dance and war are the inspiratio­n for ground-break­ing pro­duc­tion 10 SOL­DIERS, which comes to Nor­wich The­atre Royal this month.

The show, by Rosie Kay, draws on the in­tense phys­i­cal­ity of both and the ef­fects when that peak fit­ness fails, while ex­plor­ing the sto­ries of a group of com­bat­ants who be­come frac­tured by war.

It fol­lows on from chore­og­ra­pher Rosie’s ear­lier hit show, 5 SOL­DIERS: The Body is the Front­line, which was first cre­ated at the height of the con­flict in Afghanista­n in 2010.

The new piece is a larger-scale pro­duc­tion that looks at how war can leave a last­ing legacy on those who fight.

She was in­spired to ex­plore the themes af­ter suf­fer­ing a se­ri­ous knee in­jury her­self af­ter which she was told she would never dance again.

“As an elite ath­lete, sol­dier or dancer you train your body to be so good at what it does that you don’t even have to think about it. You can do in­cred­i­ble things but as soon as you’re in­jured, not only is your body in pain but your en­tire iden­tity is wiped out as well,” she says.

Rosie spent two weeks on manouevres with the 4th Bat­tal­ion, The Ri­fles, near Sal­is­bury, and spoke to in­jured com­bat­ants at a spe­cial­ist unit about the phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact of their in­juries.

“I went from ob­server to trained com­bat­ant, run­ning around fight­ing, and I was shocked at how much I en­joyed it and how good at it I was. But also my knee was much bet­ter. In a way I got through the psy­cho­log­i­cal bar­rier of think­ing I couldn’t do things.”

The com­pany is made up of pro­fes­sional dancers, but one per­former had some­thing very special to bring to the show. Alex Smith, who lives near Nor­wich, is a serv­ing trooper in The Queen’s Dra­goon Guards, as well as be­ing a trained dancer.

When he heard about Rosie’s project to cre­ate 5 SOL­DIERS he de­cided to au­di­tion with the agree­ment of his squadron leader.

“I’ve never been to Afghanista­n or Iraq, but the way my sergeants talk about it and the way that 5 SOL­DIERS por­trayed how the body ac­tu­ally is a front­line was so true. The show just grabbed me,” he said.

Grow­ing up in Wales, he be­gan danc­ing at the age of six, and trained with the pres­ti­gious North­ern Bal­let School. But while he loved dance, he also dreamed of an­other ca­reer – and joined the army.

Alex, who is cur­rently on ac­tive duty so isn’t in the lat­est tour, said the two worlds are sur­pris­ingly sim­i­lar. “You have to have a lot of self-dis­ci­pline to be a dancer. You turn up to class with ab­so­lute fo­cus, de­ter­mi­na­tion and com­mit­ment. And it’s the same with the army. You’re there 110%.”

10 SOL­DIERS, June 4, the­atreroy­al­nor­wich.co.uk

“The way that 5 SOL­DIERS por­trayed how the body ac­tu­ally is a front­line was so true”

ABOVE: Trooper and for­mer dancer Alex Smith, pic­tured cen­tre, in 5SOL­DIERS Brian Slater

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