Monday, 4 May 2015

Interview with a Dancer: Shelley Eva Haden

This week I had the chance to catch up with an exciting and talented dancer who is busy touring the UK at the moment - Shelley Eva Haden. She is currently performing in Rosie Kay Dance Company’s 5 Soldiers, described as an intimate viewing of the human body in war and how it affects those that put their body on the frontline. The piece debuted last week in Birmingham and has received 5* from The Guardian’s Luke Jennings. Here’s what Northern graduate Shelley has to say about the whole experience…

You recently wrote in the Guardian about your training exercise and experience in the army - how demanding was it physically? Do you think you could be a real soldier?

Training in the army (4th Battalion The Rifles) was one of the best experiences of my life, mainly because of the people and the extreme situations that pushed my comfort zones and capabilities like never before. The training mainly focused on combat and the approach of enemy and hostage situations. I personally found the training more demanding mentally other than physically as it challenged my ability to adapt to completely new ways of thinking. The exercise was the most physical part of the training, this involved managing our rifle and defending ourselves against platoons of infantry soldiers as they landed in from real life off spray aircraft. This was the most terrifying yet infusing experience and I dived in with 100% guts. Do I think I could be a soldier? I truly don’t know the answer to that, and I don’t think I ever will. My week of training was merely a taste of military life and I don’t think any of us really know the reality of a soldier’s life unless we have been there. 

Anyone who has seen any rep or photos of 5 Soldiers will know that you are the only female in the cast. (What an achievement!) What's it like being around so much testosterone all the time, how does it affect group dynamics when dancing together?

The cast of 5 Soldiers are amazing. I love the boys like my brothers and feel completely at one with them. Yes, of course I am aware that I am the single female of the company but I see this as positive rather than a negative as the female influence is so important in such a masculine, intensive work. The banter is hilarious and the chemistry we have as a cast is
very special, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Has working on this piece changed your opinion on military action? What do you think the audience will take away from it?

I have never had a strong opinion on military action, it’s a very big and complex topic that quite frankly scares me. I have however gained a much stronger understanding of the Army and I truly value and appreciate the life and work of a soldier. I don’t just think, I know that audiences are touched by the experience of 5 Soldiers. Civilians/People get an insight into a world that is hidden from society, a military land that people finally get to see and understand. People feel and witness emotion, passion, guts, and sweat. The show really works and I have every faith in its success to connect with all audiences. 

What do you have lined up after this UK tour?

Rosie Kay and 5 Soldiers has the potential to expand the tour internationally. Rosie is also working on a new piece which is due to tour in 2016. After the tour ends in June I have plans to continue performing, teaching and creating and can’t wait to continue doing what I love.

5 Soldiers is in London this week and on tour around the UK until 13th June – visit the website to find a venue near you and book a ticket: