60 seconds with...Trooper Alex Smith

Rosie Kay Dance Company’s 10 SOLDIERS – a new largescale production emerging from Kay’s earlier hit show 5 SOLDIERS – will feature current soldier Trooper Alex Smith of the Welsh Cavalry, 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards as one of the dancers.

Just before he graduated as a professional ballet dancer at Northern Ballet, Alex decided to join the Army, a move influenced by stable employment prospects. Some years later, choreographer Rosie Kay’s work with soldiers inspired him to renew his interest in dancing.

You started dancing when you were six years old, you progressed through the training then decided to join The Army. What is it about dance that has made it such an important part of your life?

The thing that keeps drawing me back to dance and has always appealed to me is that it constantly challenges what I can physically do. I’m a runner too and dance is similar in that you can keep pushing yourself beyond your limits.  Music also plays a big role in dance classes - I’ve always enjoyed music so dance was a way that I could enjoy listening and really getting into the sound through movement.

How did you find yourself dancing in the show?

I saw the 2017 live stream of 5 SOLDIERS when a soldier from another regiment shared the link on Facebook. Straight away it caught my eye. One of my old teachers tagged me in a post and that’s when I contacted Rosie asking if there was any opportunity for me to get involved. Before the audition, I was beyond nervous. I was questioning myself but it ended up being a really fun and enjoyable experience. When I heard that I’d got the role, I was driving back from the audition and Rosie called, asking me to pull over. When she told me, I didn’t know what to say. I was probably silent for a while! I’d never been so happy in my life.

When Rosie Kay first started creating dance about soldiers’ lives, she was inspired by an injury that she’d experienced and her psychological response to it. She started seeing a connection between training as a dancer and training as a soldier and having a very physical job in which your body is on the frontline. You are in a unique position in that you have experienced both worlds – what were the parallels between being a soldier and a dancer for you?

Training at Northern Ballet really stood me in good stead for joining the Army. All of the work that we were doing to physically strengthen our bodies showed, and when I attended the selection process for the Army, I was probably one of the fittest people there. My training as a dancer meant that I already understood what hard work and dedication really was.

What do you hope people will get from seeing the show?

I hope they get to see that dance can be for everyone. There are a lot of stereotypes around who can be a dancer and who dance is for. But I just grew up loving dance and enjoying doing it, and that’s it. I also want them to realise the importance of the piece - it tells our experiences to the public. I became a soldier at a time when the British Army is not at war but the piece relays what it can feel like to take part in a conflict situation. So I think it’s important for soldiers to connect with that - I certainly did - and connect with the seriousness of being a serving soldier.

10 SOLDIERS is at Festival Theatre Edinburgh on Thursday 30 May 2019.

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