SARAH SINGLETON reports on a dance company’s mission to take tales from the frontline to shoppers

Warfare and army life in the modern day may not be common topics in contemporary dance but surprised shoppers in Swindon’s Regent Circus stopped to watch the dramatic outdoor performance from 5Soldiers.

The show, by Rosie Kay Dance Company, explores the lives of five men and women serving on the front line, taking them through training, combat, injury and recuperation in a demanding, physical performance.

“It was a fantastic opportunity for the public,” said Sarah Fletcher, dance education and development assistant coordinator at Swindon Dance.

“People were walking past, maybe on their lunchtime break – and they stopped and asked questions.

“Hopefully it reached people who had never seen this kind of dance performance before.

“It last about 15 minutes. As well as movement, the dancers used voices, and breath.”

Presented at the Royal Wessex Yeomanry Army Reserve Centre in Church Place at the weekend, the choreography by Rosie Kay was based on her experience watching and participating in battle exercises with the 4th Battalion The Rifles.

She also visited the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre for the British Armed Forces.

From her observations came this award-winning work, called 5Soldiers: The Body is the Frontline.

The dance offers no moral stance on war but questions what it is we ask of soldiers and explores how the human body remains essential to war.

5Soldiers also gave students from Swindon Academy an opportunity to rehearse and put on a public performance.

Local dance artist Daniel Martin worked over three days with the group of 10 girls, all aged 16 to 18 and taking a BTEC, to devise a supporting piece.

Using ideas from 5Soldiers, they created a four-minute dance about war and the military that was performed before the main item.

“Their piece was called Beast. They used a powerful, building piece of music.

“It started quietly and built up. They used breath within the piece, which had solos, duets and a final group section,” Sarah explained.

The professional company watched the students’ technical rehearsal and gave them lots of positive feedback, saying how well they worked together.

“They said their movement was very mature.

“It was great for them to get that feedback,” Sarah said.

The show and the supporting piece took place at the Royal Wessex Yeomanry Army Reserve Centre, Church Place, Swindon, on Friday and Saturday nights with military personnel among the audience. During the question and answer sessions at the end of 5Soldiers, they remarked on how realistic it was, even though it was a dance.

“It was received very well, and it was an excellent, high energy performance,” said Sarah.