On the Couch with Emma Saunders

Emma-Saunders-photo-by-Kate-HolmesWho is Emma Saunders?
Well this is a tricky question but like a lot of women I know, I do to tend to carry too many bags at once from the supermarket, talk to everyone, try and do everything, be in all places at once, have a million hats on from all my jobs all of the time so I can keep being the dance artist I want to be, remember everything and then get in trouble from my little son for not remembering every dinosaur name.

I work hard to be everything for everyone, often failing dismally and then I feel bad, forget stuff, step in a puddle, drop the bags and happily realise its time to sit down and share a champagne with my beautiful husband and friends. What a life! All good I say! I’m lucky too. Very lucky. And aware of my privilege. I’m not sitting on my roof waiting for a boat to come and save me from horrendous floods, I’m not running with a newborn from a fire, I’m not being bombed from above, I haven’t had my babies stolen from me. I can drop bags and forget stuff. I have nothing to complain about. I’m okay.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I try not to do things differently but when I read the Barefoot Investor I couldn’t get passed I think it was Chapter 3 cos that was about buying a house – something in my 40s is pretty much entirely out of reach. For me and a million others in the same age bracket. It’s not just the “youf” who are doing it tough in this area.

So perhaps I wish I had a gap year, stayed home and worked in some job, saved enough up for a little deposit on a little flat and fanned out from there. But maybe then I wouldn’t have been a dance artist – and that is the source of pretty much all of my learning so maybe I wouldn’t change a thing.

Who inspires you and why?
So many people inspire me but off the top of my head: My husband, my mum, my dad, my kids, my brother, my sister in law, Elizabeth Ryan for her resilience, Jane McKernan for her overall brilliant artistic disposition and friendship, Quirine Van Nispen for her consistency, Louise Davis for her ease, Gab Adamik for her fashion sense, Nicola Lemon Robinson for her ferocity, Anna and Soni Putnis for their ability to save lives, Dilini Esslinger for her ability to do everything and still have time to teach her kids embroidery, Feras Shaheen for being him, Josh O’Connor for his loyalty and all my WE ARE HERE Company dancers for being so enlivening, Jane Fonda for starting aerobics in her 40s, Cinnamon Lee for her consistency, Felicity Castagna for her words, Francine St George for teaching me to keep my chin up and never drop it ever, Anna Halprin for constantly reminding me that making dances matters, Miguel Gutierrez for teaching me to be impolite in performance if need be, Lisa Havilah for showing me what it means to work for someone with a vision, David Lynch for all his abstract dancing moments, Hannah Kent for her glorious books, Charlotte Wood for her transparency on process, Haiku Hands for their clarity, Jasmin Tarasin for champagne drop ins and continually offering me brilliant gigs, and Annette McLernon, Director of FORM Dance Projects who has really offered big and tangible opportunities for so many dance artists over the years, and as a result, for me, has really played a role in shaping my dancing career since babies, with her endless energy, enthusiasm and drive to keep making new, big ambitious contemporary dance works.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Listen deeply to the next generation, and the young kids coming through. If they want apple slushies at the canteen – let ’em have it. If they say enough is enough. That’s enough. I also will once I feel the time is right add my bit by continuing to make outdoor site specific dancing works of joy. Maybe it will be from a more creative dance place that EVERY single body in the world can do, maybe I will go a little deeper into my 80s aerobics branch of my practice. Depends on what the rules around sweating and lycra are.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
We cant really afford to go on many holidays as such but when we do, its often to Dubbo Zoo so the kids can run around and we can fang around on those bikes and buggies.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
It’s a pretty rare thing to have friends visit at the moment with all the lockdowns, floods etc. But if they do, I like to show them our kitchen bench, and try and sit them in every single sitting place in our house over the course of the time. Otherwise its Wombarra Bowlo and the epic Seacliff Bridge.

What are you currently reading?
The massively awesome line up for Marchdance – have you checked this out? There are sooo many really exciting dance artists emerging out of Sydney this March. In particular Trish Woods Trish and Trisha – how does one become bodiless.

What are you currently listening to?
Doldrums – I’m totally loving the dreamy, uplifting, instrumental, expansive feel of this band. They’re two local mysterious legends – one is the bass player from Decoder Ring, the other from Sea Life Park. CAN. NOT. LOSE!

Happiness is?
When dance funding bodies like Critical Path notice and follow your progression as a dance artist, and really see that they might be able to help you make a project happen in some very practical and useful ways. And then follow through immediately.

What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully a great upcoming season of Radical Transparency as part of Dance Bites through the hardworking and forward thinking FORM Dance Projects as part of the broader unbelievably exciting independent contemporary dance festival Marchdance. Also where all dancers including me can just be present both in rehearsal and in performance, not in iso, onstage, and in good health performing content we’re proud of to an audience who appreciates the magnanimous effort that all performing artists are currently doing to just get a show on that looks a little together – like pre Covid standards. Hopefully happiness.

Emma directs Radical Transparency, made in collaboration with the WE ARE HERE Company, presented by FORM Dance Projects and Riverside Theatres for Dance Bites 2022, part of March Dance, Riverside Theatres, Parramatta: 18 & 19 March. For more information, visit: www.riversideparramatta.com.au for details.

Image: Emma Saunders – photo by Kate Holmes