The British might be renowned for talking and complaining about the weather, but if you come from Fiji there are more heightened concerns than just cold rainy days. In Fiji climate change and rising sea levels threaten the disappearance of land and communities. That process is slow and erosive, but complex weather systems pose an unforeseeable threat. Severe tropical cyclone Winston made landfall on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji, on February 19th this year. It was the the strongest ever recorded in the South Pacific and created a national wind gust record of 306 km/h (190 mph). Forty-four people died and around 350,000 were affected by its impact with 40,000 homes damaged or destroyed. The bill came to around US$1.4 billion.
Are We Stronger Than Winston is perhaps more difficult to understand than it is to appreciate.
No wonder, then, that such events are reflected in the cultural outpourings of the people.
VOU is Fiji’s leading dance company and school, indeed I am told it is the only contemporary dance company in the South Pacific. Understandably, the company is proud of its achievements and of its country. In words from VOU, 'Fiji is my home, my land... my interconnected relationship of unconditional love and protection. But my land is disappearing. When it is gone, I am gone. But I refuse to die; I will fight! I am reclaiming ownership of my existence – as a people and a land. Fighting to save the land of my birth!'.
VOU (meaning new in Fijian) weaves the ancient stories and rich traditions of the islands into its work of music, dance and storytelling blending old and new, traditional and contemporary and draws on their ethnic diversity, heritage and ancient origins. Having performed all over the world they now bring Are We Stronger Than Winston to the Festival Fringe
Two expressive motifs stand out in this piece and partly indicate the stylistic differences between continents. The prolonged finger tapping on the floor and over bodies relates to the need for air and breath while the the vigorous head shaking simply makes use of a regional style. The dark stillness of the slow opening scenes with the search-light is redolent of the gloom that beset the islands and the tragedy of finding bodies. In marked contrast l4 ater scenes are filled with high-powered, energetic routines that may seem more familiar from exposure to the Maori haka.
Indeed, lack of familiarity with the style is what makes this dance piece so intriguing: it has the feel of being from another world and an alien tradition, but profoundly expresses universal emotions. Are We Stronger Than Winston is perhaps more difficult to understand than it is to appreciate. Either way it is likely to be a vou experience.