Rosie Kay Reflects on the Army and the Arts ahead of 10 Soldiers Online Premiere

The celebrated choreographer Rosie Kay played a key role in the start of Army@TheFringe and she’s back this year taking part in events and with the online premiere of 10 Soldiers. Here she looks at how this spectacular dance production has emerged and her efforts to encourage the Army to embrace the performing arts.

Well, its a sad year for the arts of all shades and hues, and here at Rosie Kay Dance Company, we are gutted that we can’t bring our new work up for the run of the Fringe.

However, with brilliant planning, and very army-like determination from the Army@Fringe team, we are delighted to be part the Army@Fringe for the second time, following our sell-out run of 5 Soldiers in 2017. Since then 5 Soldiers toured the USA, twice (narrowly missing Covid-19 this year) and has had the chance to spread its wings and grow, turning into the new work, 10 Soldiers which premiered and toured in late spring 2019.

Rosie Kay

10 Soldiers, originally commissioned and premiered at Birmingham Hippodrome will receive its online premiere, and the event will also be surrounded by a masterclass on making work for film and a post show talk with some illustrious guests.

The new production – 10 Soldiers

Wind back 12 years, and none of this would have seemed possible. Little did I know that joining an infantry battalion, to research the way the body is prepared for war, would have such a significant impact on my art, my life and my career.

Struck by the strange connection between a dancers training and a soldiers training on the body and mind, I spent a considerable amount of time and effort securing research placements within different aspects of the British military, during a time of intense conflict, repatriation and profound injury in 2008-2010.

10 Soldiers

Spending time with The 4th Battalion the Rifles in pre-deployment training for Afghanistan, time with RCDR Headley Court seeing the rehabilitation of injured soldiers, and then at RCDM Selly Oak, on the wards with clinicians as soldiers returned, medi-vacced from war zones, was a life changing experience in itself.

The resulting work, 5 Soldiers, initially supported tentatively by the Rifles Regiment, became a runaway success after its revival in 2015, and the company formed a strong alliance with the British Army, collaborating in two UK tours, Army@TheFringe and in the creation and tour of 10 Soldiers. What started out as raised – eyebrow distrust has become a fulfilling, challenging and highly modern collaborative relationship, with the Army embracing aspects of theatrical production that goes way beyond my expectations!

When I started to think about the expansion of 10 Soldiers, I went back to my original diaries and I tried to think about what more I knew now about soldiering, than what I did back in 2010. One aspect was its diversity and equality; women can now fight on the frontline officially and attitudes have changed remarkably to ethnic minorities, and on a daily basis to sexism and racism.

I also knew more about how to turn dancers into believable soldiers, having worked on many incarnations of the show, and studied the training techniques in deeper detail. 10 Soldiers now starts on Civvy street, and we see 8 new recruits get put through their paces. The second half of the show, follows a similar trajectory to 5 Soldiers, albeit on a much larger, more epic and filmic scale.

We are sad we can not be at Army@TheFringe in person, but we are committed to staying in touch with our audiences and sharing our work in the best way we can right now. We hope people tune in to the show and post show talk, and we thanks the Army for all their continued support.