Edinburgh Fringe 2017
“A thrilling and humane portrait of army life telling the stories of five men and women serving on the front line. Performed in a real life Army Reserve Centre. ***** (Scotsman). ***** (Herald). Nominated for Best Choreography (Modern) in the National Dance Awards. ‘War from a female perspective packs a punch’ ***** (Observer). ‘Lust, shock and awe… 5 Soldiers is a disturbing, illuminating and necessary glimpse into a world we mostly prefer to ignore’ (Guardian, Top 10 Dance of 2015). Presented in association with The Army.”
Performed in an actual army reserve barracks this is an immersive experience. Five dancers from the Rosie Kay Dance Company perform an extensive display of army training drills, Physical acting scenes and dances, choreographed by Rosie Kay. Four male and one female dancer, dressed in army fatigue uniforms hang out in the large performance space as young soldiers awaiting marching practice. They chat and cajole each other, until they are called to order and begin marching, “Right wheel, left, right, left. Halt. About turn.”
The tight formation of the dancers sound like taps from tap-dancing. However, the noise comes from the army issue desert boots as they do a series of restrained short jogging steps in formation and with perfect timing. The intent is to show the physical impact of army life and by now we are in awe of the five dancers who submit to the hierarchy and conquer the challenge with flying colors, as they say. Kay’s choreography is a clever mix of authentic army drills, physical theatre, muscular movement and lyrical dance. Sequences of slow, then fast marching are precise and clean. After a while there are one or two subtle steps that are variations on the theme – and are interesting because they do not look like part of the army drill.
Eventually we leave the marching grounds for training in the field. The dancers mime holding rifles in their arms, fingers on the trigger. It’s daunting, because this means business. Rifles can do bad things and these fun loving squaddies now have to rise to the career they signed up for.
The combinations of nimble and heavy steps begin to have a slight dance like flourish and members of the group show their fears one by one. They each leave the continuously moving group to show elements of their prior lives, and fear seems universal. At rest, they find ways to occupy themselves, and the choreography of strength training throwing what happens to be around is very creative, set to fast dynamic music.
The female dancer and male group do some intricate choreography and interactions exploring how soldiers meet and bond. It’s charming, flirty and a bit boisterous. A lovely duo with the sole female and a male is emotive and danced in a contemporary style, with lifts and a collage of moves from other dance genres.
In another section two males do an exciting acrobatic dance with athletic lifts and balances. There are moments of action that are equally fascinating. A sky diving scene is evocative. Later their movement incorporates guarding duties, holding mimed rifles and walking and pausing in arabesques and back legs bent and lifted in attitudes.
The music score is eclectic and sets the mood whether playful in earlier scenes to abstract and ominous with classical music in the second half, reflecting the seriousness of their situation, when the brave soldiers put themselves in front of danger. The final scenes are thoughtful and vey moving.
This is a very interesting and worthwhile experience. It’s a fascinating dance piece inspired by the army, its difficult physical training and ramifications when trained soldiers go to war. The five dancers are excellent and have high endurance because it’s a very physical show, it’s also dynamic and impressive.