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