From left, Alexander Smith, Harriet Ellis, Alan Hunte, Josh Hutchby and Luke Bradshaw are on tour in Rosie Kay Dance Company’s “5 Soldiers,” onstage in Taube Atrium Theater in the Veterans Building. (Courtesy San Francisco Performances)

‘5 Soldiers’ a riveting, urgent look at life in the military

Rosie Kay Dance Company performers are amazingly authentic

“5 Soldiers,” choreographer Rosie Kay’s vivid, enthralling, authentic look at life in the military onstage this weekend in San Francisco’s Veterans Building, is not to be missed. Not just for dance fans, it’s for anyone who wants to better understand the lives of people who put their lives on the line for their country.

Dancers Luke Bradshaw, Harriet Ellis, Alan Hunte, Josh Hutchby and Alexander Smith (also a trooper in the Welsh Calvary), are simply stunning in the mesmerizing 65-minute piece in its U.S. premiere presented by San Francisco Performances,

Birmingham, England-based Rosie Kay Dance Company has won accolades from critics and the British military for the highly researched work, which has been produced several times since 2010.

Subtitled “The Body is the Frontline,” the multi-media piece (sets, costumes and video by Louis Price and engaging soundscape by Annie Mahtani) realistically portrays the wide-ranging experiences of five soldiers: as they train, get to know each other, wait for action, engage in combat, and, finally, face its consequences.

When the audience enters the theater, the camouflage-clad soldiers are at rest onstage, before the show starts with intense drilling (so realistic that retired U.S. military men in the audience praised it in a post-show discussion).

The performers all get their own back stories, including the one woman who strips to her underwear, dramatically powders herself, and enters into a duet; Ellis and Bradshaw are gorgeous in the piece’s most lovely section (though it’s not without tension). A funny segment has the men goofing around, dancing to Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

Still, much of “5 Soldiers” illustrates the harsh realities of preparing for, waiting for, and being at, war.

Following the exhausting exercises, the soldiers go on patrol (guns are not used as props, but the miming is scarily authentic); parachute down from a helicopter; and enter the chaos of combat.

Wildly spinning, Hunte dances the role of the soldier who is struck; his comrades help him on the field, and later, as he recovers from life-changing injuries.

Admittedly not the easiest thing to watch at points, “5 Soldiers,” showcasing amazing and strong young performers, remains urgent, compelling and timely, and a welcome alternative for those who have had their fill of Alvin Ailey’s ubiquitous “Revelations,” onstage again at Cal Performances in Berkeley this week.

REVIEW

Rosie Kay Dance Company in “5 Soldiers”

Presented by San Francisco Performances

Where: Taube Atrium Theater, Veterans Building, fourth floor, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. April 12; 2 and 7:30 p.m. April 13

Tickets: $65

Contact: (415) 392-2545, www.sfperformances.org

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