Dancers join infantry exercise to get direct experience of military life

Soldiers and dancers lift Harriet from 5 Soldiers.
Soldiers and dancers lift Harriet from 5 Soldiers.

Five dancers joined the Army on three days of combat exercises deep in the Galloway countryside to prepare for their stage roles at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The four men and one woman who make up the cast of 5 SOLDIERS: The Body is the Frontline, joined Exercise Solway Eagle, which involved members of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Scots DG) who are soon to be deployed on an overseas peacekeeping mission.

The acclaimed production follows the fortunes of an infantry company as they prepare, then deploy, for combat. It is among the shows taking place at Army@TheFringe, the Army’s first ever Edinburgh Festival Fringe venue, which aims to enable the military to engage with wider society in new ways.

Joining the exercise allowed the dancers to get direct experience of life in the Army, the training and the camaraderie, and to see how the military trains for the stress and danger of conflict.

Captain Edward Mitchell, who helped look after the dancers while they were in the Galloway Forest, said: “This was an ideal opportunity for the dancers to see what soldiering is about, what really happens when we prepare for a tour of duty overseas and how soldiers learn to survive and fight in combat conditions.

“It’s also been an opportunity to chat with soldiers with very different levels of experience, some who joined relatively recently and others who have served in many situations and places.”

Duncan Anderson, from Falkirk, said: “One of my mates is in the Army and what I’ve been seeing here is exactly what he’s told me about. It’s been fantastic to be out with the Army on exercise in Scotland, I’ve learned so much.”

The dancers discovered what it was like to be out on patrol in enemy territory, be part of an ambush, deal with a roadside bomb blast and undergo an artillery bombardment. They also witnessed a live fire exercise involving heavy machine guns and grenades. Army@TheFringe and the 5 SOLDIERS tour are part of a wider initiative by the Army with festivals, photographic exhibitions and performances to build connections with wider society.

Lieutenant Colonel Sue Wright, the Army’s first ever officer for the arts, said: “Many people simply don’t have connections with the Army in the way they used to. We are society’s Army, it’s important that people know who we are and what we do.

“The arts are a way we can engage in new and different conversations with those who often don’t meet soldiers in their day-to-day life. Through initiatives this we can talk to them about issues we are all interested in like diversity and inclusiveness. We firmly believe that as society’s army we should reflect the society we serve.

“And sometimes the arts are a superb way to celebrate our soldiers and show people the amazing work they do for all of us.”