When entering a sacred space, there is an underlying presence that challenges any visitor to engage with the unsaid and the unexplained. Invoking traditional ceremony and ritual, VOU Dance Fiji does exactly that. In their latest offering, the company attempt to carve out a dialogue between the past and the present, the ancestral beings and the people.
This is VU. It is marked by a space where there is no clear beginning or end to the performance. A woman stands with her back towards us; she hums as she moves towards a husked rope dangling low above a kava bowl. A male body, lit by a single flickering lightbulb, writhes in the background. He is resting on what slowly is revealed to be two other bodies, all breathing, moving, responding to the exchanges that are about to unfold.
Choreographer Vivian Aue has created an intense and deliberate narrative, one that faces inward and engages in a multi-layered conversation. His dancers, Eleni Tabua, Rusiate Rokilibau, Navi Fong and Tevita Tobeyaweni offer deeply committed performances and the work is driven by an explicit intention to expel the toxic effects of colonial intervention.
However, there is a lack of direction that renders this work tedious and repetitive. Efforts to deconstruct clichés and interrogate the current value system are neither engaged nor sustained. The work meanders through a social universe that has so much innate potential but comes across as paper thin, and at times, superficial. The use of the Fijian language is one of the highlights; it is not necessary for everyone to understand what is being said, the conviction and delivery are eloquent enough; but again there is little that weaves these powerful moments into the larger conversation that is played out.
VU is an hour of butoh-esque movement contrasted with moments of frenetic activity, invocations, castigations and lamentations, but in its current iteration, the work still has a long way to go to reach its true potential.