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Welcome to Wollongong’s Home of the Performing Arts

Emma Saunders

MERRIGONGX Artist Profile


Emma Saunders has been described as a “formidable”(Realtime, 2010) Australian dance artist who works as a director, choreographer, performer, educator and curator. She graduated with a BA in Dance and Grad Dip Ed (Dance/Drama) from the University of Western Sydney (1996). She is interested in the simplicity of dance and the complexity of choreography. Utilising a visceral, instinctive attack, her work is immediate, often working with humour, everyday movement, text, repetition, deconstruction, duration and abstraction.

Emma is a co-founding member of the award-winning Sydney based trio,The Fondue Set, alongside Jane McKernan and Elizabeth Ryan, who have created 10 full length works including Green Room Award-winning No Success Like Failure presented at the Sydney Opera House (2008) and Dance Massive, Arts House (2009). The Fondue Set have also performed in the Melbourne International Arts Festival (2008), Sydney Festival First Night (2010), The Sideshow for ABCTV, The Studio (SOH), nightclub gigs including Club Kooky, and were representatives for Australia in the AJDX Japan/Australia Dance Exchange supported by the Australia Council and CREATE NSW. In 2008, they also received funding to recontextualise their signature theatrical and humorous dance work within an international context travelling and performing in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, Vienna with a 2 week residency in Paris.

Emma has done a range of work as a solo artist including choreographing film clips for Sydney pop band the Pip Branson Corporation, collaborated/outside eye for award winning performance group POST (Sydney Theatre) and was the inaugural Dance Curator at Campbelltown Arts Centre (2008 – 2012) under Lisa Havilah (ex Director, Carriageworks), where she curated over 40 new dance projects including What I Think About When I Think About Dancing that examine community, location, exchange, culture, age and the interdisciplinary nature of making dance work. From 2015-18, Emma created two new large scale outdoor site specific dance projects, The Bankstown Dancing Project, commissioned by Urban Theatre Projects for Sydney Festival 2015 working with a cross section of the Vietnamese ballroom community and pop/musician Toby Martin (Youth Group), and The Austinmer Dancing Project 1.1.18, which has had over 15,000 hits on youtube (supported by Ward Based grant, WCC).

From 2010 -19, Emma also taught Movement, Generative Performance Practice, and Performance Art, at the University of Wollongong and directed the sell out graduation show ONE HIT WONDERS in 2018. For 2018/19 Emma was an Associate Artist for NORPA, Lismore where she explored her new solo dance work DANCING WITH MYSELF involving a cross section of the local community, artists and NORPA staff and where this can intersect with her professional practice. In January 2020, commissioned and produced by FORM Dance Projects, Emma developed and directed the acclaimed large scale outdoor site specific work of joy, ENCOUNTER, for Sydney Festival 2020 in Prince Alfred Park, Parramatta and for the Four Winds Festival, Bermagui. ENCOUNTER was tagged #bestofthefest by CREATE NSW and involved a 52piece live orchestra (WSYO), 16 dancers, original 1hr composition by composers Jodi Phillis (The Clouds) and Amanda Brown (The Go-Betweens), Miles Franklin nominee writer Felicity Castagna and slam poet Pola Fanous.

In the past 2 years, Emma has been shortlisted for two Australian Dance Awards for ENCOUNTER and her AUSTINMER DANCING PROJECT. Emma is currently the Artistic Director for the WE ARE HERE Company – a Western Sydney based diverse, young adult dance ensemble, co-founded with FORM Dance Projects following ENCOUNTER in 2020 and currently hosted by FORM Dance Projects. Recently Emma and the WE ARE HERE company presented Radical TRANSPARENCY at Riverside Theatres.  

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