Rosie Kay dance company has been touring in Scotland with a remarkable dance performance, 5 Soldiers: The Body is in the Front Line. I was lucky enough to see it last night at Fort George, an 18th century fort that has been obviously added to as it is still in use. Situated just to the north of Inverness, there are beautiful views of the strip of sea that divides the land. Last night I was hypnotised by the goods train crossing the rail bridge as well…
Welcomed to the site by serving soldiers and serenaded by two pipers, it was hard to specify exactly when the performance began. Was it when the dancers come on stage or was it before then.
We feel the vibrations through the gymnasium floor and raked seating and the clock ticking both back projected, time in real time passing and the sound of time passing while the dancers, desert booted and camoflougued, sit waiting.
Chewing haribo sweets, mock fighting and passing the time representing the time waiting for something to happen, for all the training to come into focus, is an important part of this piece. It is a leitmotif that runs through it as waiting must be a fundamental part of being an active soldier.
This “silence” (which is never actually silent) is punctuated by energised drills, contemplation on the seedier side of soldiering – as the military representative at the discussion aftwe the show put it “womanising,abusing alcohol….” and fighting hand to hand and shooting sequences. I was amazed by the parachute sequence which was beautiful and moving. Its stillness and movement combined so subtly, so realistically in terms of emotional expression and the final part where one of the soldiers loses his legs in an IUD attack and its aftermath was poignant and hopeful. I was particularly impressed by the choreography of some of the combat scenes when the dancers’bodies contorted so really portal the anger and frustration of war.
Holding the event in the fort meant that there were many soldiers and families watching. I really wondered how they reacted to such a powerful expression of life and sacrifice.
Some articulated their thoughts at the discussion held after the show. One family commented that their daughter was in the military and she had had a really tough time so it was good to see her struggles as a woman being recognised in the piece. Although Rosie Kay said she hadn’t wanted the dancers to act as such, Shelly Haden said it was really important to her to have a part to portray and that doing training with real soldiers had given her a real insight into life for a soldier. Luke Bradshaw, who plays the officer, also found the acting of a part was essential to help in conveying meaning.
The dancers and soldiers agreed that there is a lot that links the two professions: the need for physical and mental fitness, reliance on your body to not let you down, the emptiness when you can’t work for whatever reason.
There is still a chance to see the show in Aberdeen -so well worth seeing it.