Review: Rosie Kay Dance Company in 5 Soldiers at The Rifles Club, Mayfair

Performance: 20 & 21 May 2010
Reviewed by Fiona Campbell - Monday 24 May 2010

Rosie Kay Dance Company  '5 Soldiers'
Photos: Brian Slater

Reviewed: 21 May 2010

The contemporary dance world has had little to say so far on the subject of war, which makes Rosie Kay’s stark and brilliantly uncompromising _*5 Soldiers, The Body is the Front Line* _all the more remarkable.

Modern media and politicians bombard us daily with imagery and opinion surrounding Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet can we ever begin to connect with concept of being at war: being a soldier and placing our body on the frontline for the sake of our country? For most of us (fortunately) the answer is no.

In *5 Soldiers,* Kay poignantly explores the physical and emotional effects of warfare, inviting us to consider not only the concept and tragedy of war, but the individuals involved.

Prior to creating the work she spent time battle training with The 4th Battalion of The Rifles, as well in the Defense Medical Rehabilitation Centre, Headley Court. The result of her extensive research yielded an extraordinary attention to detail and palpable compassion throughout the choreography.

The piece opens with the performers (four male and one female) dressed in full military uniform. They sit scattered around the stage, tying their boots, smelling socks, picking noses and brushing their teeth. For the most part the movement mimics that of a soldier in training, exemplifying the uniformity and discipline common to both dance and military training. The dancers display a formidable athleticism common to Kay’s choreographic style, perhaps more so in this work as they march briskly laden with enormous overloaded backpacks and chunky combat boots.

Throughout the 80 minutes the unit formation disperses to leave us with five individuals experiencing war. The pace ebbs and the intensity builds as they struggle through battle, fighting for their own as well as each other’s lives. For all the bleakness and violence associated with war, Kayis careful not to make this the sole focal point. We are also offered glimpses into the laborious periods of boredom between action, alongside the humour and camaraderie that provide comfort in such a surreal environment.

It is difficult not to be utterly draw-in by the palpable intensity the dancers so aptly embody, particularly in the final scene. The lights dim and Chris Linda struggles to the point of exasperation, trying to walk after having both legs amputated from the knee. His agonising determination is raw, real and heart wrenching.

But, there is another piercing moment. The lone female soldier, played by Tilly Webber, sits alone powdering her body and shaking out her hair oblivious to the male comrades vying for attention around her. Here Kay taps into another very real aspect of being at war; the simmering sexual frustration and longing for female interaction experienced by male soldiers.

Making the company’s London performances all the more memorable was the unique setting of The Rifles Club, capturing an audience brimful with military personnel, some of whom offered their personal interpretations and encouraging feedback in the post-show discussion. Perhaps what is most commendable about Kay’s work is that it has successfully brought together the polarised worlds of the military and dance, striving to remind us that ultimately, war is about the people involved, not the politics.

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