Note: Some images could not be viewed when originally posted. I have made some changes. But if you still can’t see the images (9 in total), let me know. Vinaka, Dulcie.
Sachiko Miller was active in producing and participating in music and dance performances throughout her schooling in Fiji. After graduating from the University of Auckland with a degree in Music majoring in Composition and a degree in Performing Arts with a major in Dance she returned home to Fiji and worked for a year at the Oceania Centre at the University of the South Pacific. Here she organised Fiji’s first dance festival the Oceania Dance Festival.
I talanoa with Sachiko who founded VOU in 2007 to create something ‘VOU’ something ‘new’ that connects and speaks to people.
What made you want to form Vou?
VOU was formed as a place for freedom. For creative people to come and create whatever they wanted and whenever they wanted. And so many times our work is labeled and has to fit into a certain category or another. We want to be able to make anything, free of genre and incorporating all different kinds of disciplines, such as dance, music, design and film…. “E DUA NA KA VOU”. Always something new and fresh.
Apart from you, did any of the other dancers have any dancing training or experience?
Well the dancers that we have now, we are all kind of like a family…..literally. Well I went to school with some of the girls and we had dance groups and training at our school. The boys I also knew at school although they went to another school. When I asked Eddy (Edward Soro) to join, he then brought along his brother, then his cousin, then his friend, then his next door neighbour hahaha! And it kind of evolved like that, and we have all known each other for years and grown up together. So the boys and a few of the girls had had no previous dance experience, but they are all athletic and eager to learn, which is the main thing, cause really you can train anyone to dance but it’s much harder to turn someones bad attitude around!
How would you describe Vou’s choreography?
E DUA NA KA VOU.
Haha, I would like to not put ourselves in any distinct category. We perform original music and dance which is a fusion of traditional Fijian and contemporary. We draw inspiration out of our rich Fijian culture and heritage yet also want to reflect ourselves as young urban Fijians living as a part of our modern globalised context.
This is what we refine and focus on as our product. However, for local audiences in Fiji we also like to explore and go crazy with all different kind of styles, from Bollywood to slap stick to Latin you name it, just for fun and to keep ourselves without boundary’s and of course to have a good time.
Some of your dancers have been to Indonesia as recipients of exchange programmes where they’ve studied for 3 months traditional Indonesian music, art, dance and martial arts and you’ve collaborated with renowned Indonesian choreographer Susarita Lora Vianti from West Sumatra Indonesia. Could you tell us a bit more about that and how important is collaboration for Vou?
Yes we have a close relationship with the Embassy of Indonesia. I was doing some work and choreography at a University in West Sumatra in Padangpanjang and in turn a choreographer Indra Utama came over here to do choreography for the festival that we organised in 2006. That is when we first started to become friends with the embassy, since then every year we have sent dancers over to Indonesia to study culture, art, music and dance. It has had such a beneficial effect for the group.
When the dancers leave they still have the laid back Fiji style, but when they come back you can see a 100% turn around. They are more motivated not only in dancing but in their education and work as well, as it is such a good opporutnity to go to Indonesia and see how hard people work over there, how much dedication, time and perfection they put into their art and work. There is a huge arts industry over there, and when the dancers come back they feel motivated to make their careers work and they are just more worldly and experienced.
We worked with Susasrita Lora Vianti when she came over last year, it was such a wonderful time for all of us. All the participants gained so much out of her workshops, we learnt three different traditional dances from Indonesia, the Tari Saman, a slapping and chanting dance, the Tari Indang, which is a dance where the dancers play and dance with a drum and the Tari Piring which was a terrifying plate dance! (We smashed many many plates in practice)
The workshops was so enlightening in many ways not only from the perspective that we learnt new dances, through osmosis and being with Lora, we learn about their culture, their beliefs and values, their religion, their food, how they make their costumes and why they make them like that. By the end of the workshop we had a deep understanding and respect for each other as two rich and unique cultures coming together.
When did you start using live music in your performances?
We started incorporating live music for entire shows last year. And we are continually developing the music side of VOU. We have recently completed a recording studio and VOU will be releasing their first album later on this year, so keep a look out!
You recently released a new music video on YouTube, tell us about that. And was creating music a natural progression from choreography?
Yes that was an exciting new development for us. The song “love here” is not really love song. It is about a journey of self discovery. How we always expect other people or elements outside of ourselves, to love us, fulfill us and make us happy. Where as one needs to have a deep love and acceptance for one’s own self and only then can he/she genuinely give love and in return find fulfillment.
So that is what the song is about and we wanted to portray this inner journey visually and physically going through different terrains and environments, which our beautiful island paradise is renowned for!
Yes we have always been set on making music we have three musicians working with VOU and I actually have always been a musician and studied music at Auckland University, I supposed the music has been a bit sidelined cause of the dancing haha!
What do you hope audiences will experience or take away from your performances?
VOU vision is to spread the message of love, peace and unity through the medium of music and dance. If people can be a part of our performances, see our movements and listen to the words and have a sense of peace and brotherhood with our fellow humans that would be ….awesome!
We are all from different backgrounds, even myself I am obviously of European heritage yet spent my entire life in Fiji, but we are Fiji we are united globally in our humanity. If VOU can for a second convince us and everyone to drop our labels, boxes, preconceived projections and stereotypes and experience our commonality rather than our differences, we will all be a little step closer to internal and universal peace.
What are your inspirations?
To make a world class uniquely Fijian performance product to export from Fiji. We will keep refining and refining our work to make it one of the best in the world. VOU wants to be a financially self sustaining creative company, providing profitable and fulfilling careers to its artistic members. This is hard to do at the moment in Fiji but we need to keep developing the arts industry here in order to be able to do this, and it can be done.
What inspires me is seeing a work or art, a dance, a piece of music that really touches you. You know when something REALLY touches you deep within, and your hair stands, you get goose bumps, tears well up in your eyes and you are taken away….
Those are magic moments and I am in awe and grateful to people that are able to create them. If VOU can create even one of those kinds of experiences for even one person, that would be something to aspire to.
Do other art forms or artists in different disciplines inspire you? If yes, who and why?
Everything! We want to work with all the members of VOU’s strengths so we explore them and develop them. Such as one of our dancers Dilo (Adi Losalini Foi) was always drawing on everything and has a real passion for art so we borrowed some paints and she is now painting and selling her work. Another member has a knack for style and design so we are developing a couple of them to come up with a range of clothes. We don’t want to categories ourselves as strictly dancers, we want to be known as ‘everything creative’. E DUA NA KA VOU.
There are other Pacific artists that we draw inspiration from such as the New Zealand based Samoan choreogarpher Lemi Ponifasio , I have always admired his work, that is a fusion of Pacific and Japanese Butoh dance, beautiful to watch his work unfold, it puts you in a trance. Also there is Te Vaka on the other end, we love their sound and lively pacific foot print and of course our own Black Rose is number one!!! We love their music and look up to them as fellow artists.
What is Vou working on at the moment?
At the moment the VOU team is working on a TV series that should be coming out on TV closer to the end of this year and we are working on our album. Most of our dancers are going to Indonesia for the scholarship next month, so we make have a break from the dancing during that time so we can focus on these other things. And when they come back we can pick their brains and make them teach us everything they learnt hahaha!
Vinaka vaka levu Sachiko and VOU, keep on inspiring. E DUA NA KA VOU!
VOU on the coconut wireless.
Photographs by Monique Magginity and Jason Chute, courtesy of Sachiko Miller.
Edited: 12 July, 2010.