Arts & Entertainment



The Fondue Set is a Sydney dance outfit that was formed in 2001 by Elizabeth Ryan, Jane McKerran and Emma Saunders. Their innovative shows are noted for pushing contemporary dance out of the academy and into popular culture with signature theatricality, humour and audience engagement.

Their latest work, No Success Like Failure, explores loss, emptiness, giving up and giving in. Opening at The Studio this week, it’s part dance, part talent quest, part motivational lecture, part cabaret.

The trio have collaborated with a director for the first time (acclaimed UK choreographer/director Wendy Houston) for this show, and Elizabeth Ryan says the result is quite different from what they’ve done in the past. ‘We’ve always done everything as a trio and rarely had solos or duos. Wendy wanted to break that up a bit so there’s a lot more of us as individual entities.’

In our success-obsessed culture of aspiration it’s refreshing to see things that deal with the flip sides of defeat and disappointment. ‘I think Sydney is a particularly success-driven place,’ says Elizabeth, ‘in the show we’ve got a character who embodies that side of the city’s culture ‘ she’s this big Sydney woman dripping with gold and achievements but she’s so heavy with it all that she’s miserable.’

This sort of visual metaphor is typical of The Fondue Set, and throughout the show they use costume to express notions of the burden and insatiability of success. ‘We all wear incongruous outfits because the idea is that the three of us have completely different agendas for the type of show we want to make – different ideas about what will make the audience happy ‘ so there’s a concept of failing in terms of what the audience wants and expects.’

‘Emma wears a rabbit costume that’s half falling off her, representing a failed attempt to create a magical world. We draw attention to the artifice of the costumes and point to the fact that we’re actually just people up on stage. Costumes can often make us more exposed as people than disguised: the attempt to mask yourself can just highlight your vulnerabilities.’

‘Failure is a theme we’ve worked with a bit in the past,’ says Elizabeth, ‘our last work [The Set (Up)] was based on the idea of setting up for a show that never happened, and this one is sort of the aftermath of that failed attempt. It’s us dealing with the feeling of emptiness, and our attempts to make the show work.’

The Fondue Set ‘ No Success Like Failure
June 4-7
The Studio, Sydney Opera House
Bookings: 9250 7777 or