As one of Fiji’s pre-eminent dance companies, the vibrant energy VOU brings to every performance feels like an extension of their founder’s personality.
Sachiko Soro is a living embodiment of the energy, spirit, and mana the company is renowned for.
VOU (meaning ‘new’ in iTaukei) is dedicated to delivering dynamic, visually-stunning and sometimes moving performances ranging from traditional story-telling to contemporary dance and music.
“My personal goal as one of the founding members is to provide sustainable and fulfilling career paths for the artists and their future,” Soro says. That dream led to the establishment of the VOU Hub for arts, culture, and activities just near Denarau.
VOU also offers regular bespoke shows at selected Fiji resorts, trains dancers through formal programs, is the company of choice for Fiji’s biggest events, produced two new and innovative shows for the Fiji Fringe Festival earlier this year, and travels the world promoting Fiji’s diverse cultures.
Of course, this all came to a stop during the pandemic. While the bubbly and positive founder doesn’t like to talk too much about challenges, Soro says it did crystallise what was non-negotiable when it came to the company.
As an entrepreneur who has a very close relationship with her team, the answer was clear. “For me, if I was going to harp on about sustainable creative careers, this was the time to put my money where my mouth was, so my non-negotiable was that we were not going to let go of any of our staff,” she said.
All 33 full-time VOU staff members remained employed through Covid. “This made me proud because many of these young artists face a lot of criticism from outside forces, questioning their decision to become professional dancers, like, ‘Why are you doing this? This is not a real job, and when are you going to get a proper job?’”
During the pandemic, Soro and her team looked beyond choreography.
“We had to look at all of the resources that we had available to us to keep everyone in our community alive and healthy, and our first priority was food security because 2020 felt like it was an apocalypse,” she says.
Alongside planting, raising chickens and fishing, the team looked at how they could translate their creative skills into projects that did not involve performing in front of live audiences.
“So we went into the arena of generating online content, and it opened up this whole new world of opportunity. We went into making movies; five different films we made were commissioned by the LA museum.”
This led to other prospects, including virtual reality projects.
“Challenges are actually just opportunities in disguise, because I don’t think that we ever would have thought of creating a film or digital content for streaming platforms if we hadn’t been forced into it by Covid.”
Today, VOU is performing in front of live audiences again, and employing 72 people full time.
“I feel like challenges are just a part of our lives as entrepreneurs and professionals, so we can change the perspective, the challenges, and turn them into opportunities in disguise; it’s all part of business.”
Where you can see VOU perform:
- Fiji Untold: Thursdays and Friday nights at the VOU Hub
- Cannibals Chase: Fridays
- Island Adventurers: Thursdays and Sundays
- Sacred Flame: Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Shangri-La Fijian Resort and Spa
This article first appeared in Fiji Traveller, April-June 2023.