The Journey of VOU Choreographic Scholarship Recipient
A scholarship offered by an Auckland University Dance Studies alumna has taken a current postgraduate to Fiji in the height of the Auckland winter.
Vivian Aue, currently completing his Postgraduate Diploma in Dance Studies, has spent six weeks in Suva throughout June and July as the inaugural winner of the VOU Choreographic Scholarship. While Vivian has been dancing since he was five years old, only last year did he begin to develop as a choreographer. "I started to enjoy making work, getting out what's in my head, producing work through movement," Vivian says of 2014. Encouragement from Dance Studies academics led him to apply for the scholarship, with Vivian recalling, "All the lecturers in our department really inspired me and pushed me to bring out more of what I’ve got."
VOU is Fiji's first professional dance company, set up by Dance Studies graduate Sachiko Soro in 2007 with the goal of promoting arts in the island nation. "There's no music and dance in primary and secondary education here, so this was a great starting point for arts education," Sachiko tells of her reasoning for starting the company. "We teach classes, we do a lot of commercial work, and we also have a research arm which documents the chants and traditional dances of our culture." Recalling the well-rounded, professional nature of her studies here in Auckland, she decided to offer the residency scholarship to a current choreography postgraduate student who could benefit from time with the company as well as bring new styles and ideas to the company and classes at VOU. "It has been great for our Fijian dancers to work alongside people like Vivian to learn and exchange ideas, knowledge and movement," she says.
Vivian traveled to Fiji with some major research goals. "Firstly, I needed to explore myself as a choreographer. I am still emerging and finding who I am, so I needed to understand how I work with dancers, my own ideas and the ideas they bring the piece themselves." Experiencing professional company life was also a crucial box to tick. "Next year I would really like to start my own company here in Auckland, and understanding the required professionalism is very important," says Vivian. After interacting with Sachiko last year through the Dance Studies programme, he wanted to benefit from her passion and knowledge of the choreographic process. "It was a truly inspirational experience," he says of her mentorship. "I look forward to implementing the energy, mana and spirit that Sachiko and the VOU dancers have taught me into my own craft back in New Zealand."
During his time in Fiji, Vivian taught beginner and advanced hip hop classes in the VOU school, choreographed a contemporary work for the VOU company members and experienced the cultural meke dances the company prides itself on. He also sampled village life, Fijian warrior attire, kava and local food. "He just fit in like a glove," Sachiko comments of Vivian's time with her group. "They hung out together outside of the studio, traveled to other parts of Fiji and I constantly heard a lot of laughter! He became full immersed in the language, culture and way of life."
Sachiko hopes Vivian has gained the experience in the day to day running and schedules of a professional dance company. She says her team enjoyed his unique choreographic style and that VOU would readily welcome Vivian back to Fiji. "He will always have a family here now." Vivian echoes that sentiment. "VOU has had a huge impact on my life. I am truly happy to have met new lifelong friends. They have treated me and my choreographic practice with so much raw energy and respect. This has been an extraordinary, choreographically interesting and challenging experience which will leave a lasting impression on my choreographic and dance practice."
Some of Vivian's pieces can be seen in Auckland at the upcoming Short and Sweet and Tempo Dance festivals.
(Sourced from The University of Auckland)