Are We Stronger Than Winston?
Powerful response to the tragedy of Cyclone Winston and the fear of climate change from Fijian VOU
This article is from 2016.
In February 2016 Cyclone Winston hit Fiji, becoming the worst recorded tropical storm in the Southern Pacific, killing 42 people and causing tens of thousands to flee their homes. Fijian dance company VOU's response to the tragedy is terrifyingly intense, a sliver on the tip of the iceberg of the abject horror of finding your community beaten to the ground by nature's irrational forces.
Though individuals fragment at times from the group – or are pushed from it, or recoiled from, or given up as an offering – this is fundamentally an ensemble piece. Movements seem contagious – tapping, shaking, clawing at the throat – religious chants melt together into the word 'blood'. In one harrowing section, a plague takes hold, the group rallying round each dropping victim as the number of carers rapidly diminishes. But the most affecting part comes not through the choreography: when one woman walks raging, howling from the centre of the mass of bodies, she simply sobs, 'This is exactly how I felt.'
Are We Stronger Than Winston? is not always coherent in its repeated images of rawness and despair, but there is an absolute integrity to each and every dancer, sustained throughout to alarming levels, which communicates the strength of their feelings. This is dance that reminds us why dance exists. In the face of such overwhelming tragedy and fear what else can be done?
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