Midday shoppers were shell-shocked when suspiciously nimble squaddies appeared in their midst.
But despite the uniforms, these weren’t real members of the armed forces.
They were dancers performing a short excerpt of 5 Soldiers, a new dance work to be staged in full at Dance City in Newcastle by the Birmingham-based Rosie Kay Dance Company.
Rosie, one of the world’s leading choreographers, was ‘embedded’ with 4th Battalion, The Rifles for several weeks as she researched the physical aspects of modern combat training.
A group of four male dancers and one female donned uniform to perform in intu Eldon Square in Newcastle city centre.
Shoppers were treated to a moving blend of rigorous team combat and contemporary dance duets with elements of urban street dance.
The skilfully choreographed piece sought to show how the human body is equipped for war.
It invited viewers to think about how war affects people who risk their lives to help others.
Teresa Kirby, a spectator who attends classes at Dance City, said afterwards: “I felt it was a very physical, very strong piece that cleverly represented the transformation of the military into dance.
“It was very moving and showed how the soliders seem to care for each other in real battle.”
The touring production has been described as “a visceral tour de force of the senses” and has the fitting tag-line ‘The Body is the Frontline’.
The Rosie Kay Dance Company prepared its performers for 5 Soldiers by sending them off to experience battle drills, crawl through mud and handle weapons.
The resulting piece has been given the thumbs up by military audiences.
Brigadier Stephen Hodder, Commander 43 (Wessex) Brigade, Tidworth, said: “When I saw the final production, I could recognise every movement by the dancers. It was very authentic and hard to believe that the dancers weren’t all experienced soldiers.”
5 Soldiers was to be performed on Thursday, May 14 at 6pm at Dance City, Newcastle, and again on Saturday, May 16 at 8pm. Tickets can be bought from www.dancecity.co.uk
Before the Saturday show there will be a short performance by South Tyneside Young Carers’ Association and young people who live in Albemarle Barracks with a parent serving in the Army. They worked with Tyneside dance artist Nadia Iftkhar to create the piece inspired by 5 Soldiers.