10 SOLDIERS explores the human impact of war through dance
- Credit: Archant
A ground-breaking production which uses dance to throw the spotlight on life in the Army is coming to Norwich Theatre Royal on 4 June.
10 SOLDIERS explores the stories of a group of combatants who become fractured by war.
It is the work of renowned choreographer Rosie Kay who immersed herself in Army life for two weeks, finding parallels in dance and war - not least in the intense physicality of both and the effects when that peak fitness fails.
Emerging from her earlier hit show, 5 SOLDIERS: The Body is the Frontline, which was first created in 2010 at the height of the conflict in Afghanistan, 10 SOLDIERS is a larger-scale production that looks at how war can leave a lasting legacy on those who fight.
The new piece has been commissioned by Birmingham Hippodrome and is the first main stage piece that Rosie Kay Dance Company has produced since becoming one of its Associate Companies.
Rosie's initial interest in choreographing dance inspired by soldiers was sparked by a dance injury she experienced and her psychological response to it. Diane Parkes found out more.
"I had this really serious injury on stage. I was right at the peak of my career and I was told I wouldn't dance again," Rosie recalls.
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"I then had an operation on my left knee and following that I had this dream that my leg had been blown off on a desert battlefield.
These dreams made me think about the links of the physicality of a dancer with that of a soldier."
Birmingham-based Rosie asked the armed forces for help and they offered her an opportunity to spend two weeks on manoeuvres with 4th Battalion The Rifles near Salisbury.
The results of such intense physical activity surprised Rosie.
"I was still having quite a lot of problems and pain with my leg when I went into the army and they pushed me so hard I was doing stuff with my body I didn't think I would be able to do," she says.
"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."
It also made her realise the importance of mental attitudes towards injury and pain.
"When I was doing my research I met soldiers who were injured and yet The Army was so much who they were, they were determined to go back," she recalls.
"I met soldiers who had lost both legs who were still determined to go back to the frontline.
But now they had to find something else in their lives and they hadn't expected that."
When Rosie first launched 5 SOLDIERS in 2010 she received a mixed response, but in more recent years it has become hugely successful with repeat tours in both the UK and abroad.
Rosie believes this may be due to a shift in British society's attitude towards its injured soldiers in that time.
"We were still at war when 5 SOLDIERS was first created and I think it was really harrowing for people because we were still in it.
"When we then toured the show in 2015, suddenly it got all the critics' attention and received a raft of five-star reviews.
"It was really interesting - something had happened in that period between 2010 and 2015 in society.
The war had ended, people were far, far more aware of the injury rate and things that I had been going on about had suddenly become normalised and more mainstream.
"Now it's like the ground has cleared, there's no war and I think people are more capable of distinguishing between the politics and The Army themselves."
Similarly, Rosie believes 10 SOLDIERS has an important message for its audiences.
"You come out having had such a strong, visceral experience and it also makes you think about things differently afterwards," she says.
"That seems to be across the board - whether it's civilians, pacifists, army personnel - it cuts right through people's prejudices or assumptions.
"It makes you realise the horror, but also the humanity."
10 SOLDIERS comes to Norwich Theatre Royal on Tuesday June 4 at 7.30pm and tickets cost from £10 to £21.50 and you can book online at theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk