Arts & Entertainment

Encounter Sydney outside the Sydney Opera House

Encounter Sydney

Photo: Heidrun Lohr

By Swagatalakshmi Roychowdury

Encounter is back, this time to Sydney, with an extraordinary dance performance that would transform the Sydney Opera House’s monumental steps, into an open-air stage. 

Award-winning Australian dance artist and choreographer Emma Saunders spoke to City Hub about the upcoming dance performance, her encounter with kangaroos in the previous Encounter, and how this show might turn out to be an encounter with the Opera House.

“It will be a lot of fun. It is a beautiful experience of action and energy,” Saunders said. “The dance movements reflect the world without giving away anything about what happens next. “It is a both a celebration of simplicity and complexity.”

Encounter Sydney is about a feeling. It was initially a tryst to show the resilience and relentlessness of never giving up. It’s a celebration of our next generation. It’s a celebration of coming together and of humanity,” said Saunders.

“The show tells important stories of some of these young people,” said Saunders.


Previously Saunders shared a story of a young Palestinian Australian in Parramatta. This time, she is sharing the story of Sarah, an African-Australian First Nations woman. In her work over the past five years, Saunders took the decision to explore the outdoors dance form.

Encounter Sydney

Photo: Heidrun Lohr

“When we get outdoors, we experience that sense of freedom. It’s a way to give agency to the audience,” she said. Instead of telling the audience what to think, she gives them the room to breathe and give their own meaning to the dance. “You choose where you want to look at. It’s less focused,” she said, which is different from indoor dance performances. It offers time and space to the audience.

Emma recaller her hilarious experience where a group of kangaroos came close to the dancers at the Four WindFestival, Bermagui.

“We had an encounter with the kangaroos. This time around, I guess you can call it an encounter with Opera House,” she said as she attempts to bring audience attention towards the performers without losing it to the expanse of Opera House.


Saunders attempted to bring an “artistic edge” in a contemporary dance background and bring it to the mainstream. Saunders explained the essence of the show which, despite its “non-narrative nature”, provides meaning to the world through the movements. The show is an attempt to demonstrate feelings without relying on a certain plot which is what makes it unique.

Encounter Sydney

Photo: Heidrun Lohr

“There is this intersection between movement and moments. Dance is its own entity,” Emma said. “The words delivered by Warren Foster make you look at the next movements in a different way.”

Emma Saunders had been working with a range of pedestrian and abstract movements for a long time. In that abstract space, Encounter Sydney packs a punch through that deconstruction of movements. While the previous Encounter in Parramatta brought in its own essence, Encounter Sydney, which took over a year and a half to make, ties in the history of Sydney together.


Written by Felicity Castagna and composed by Amanda Brown and Jodi Phillis, the show will be performed by young dancers from the Western Sydney-based We Are Here Company. Led by Emma, the We Are Here company comprises of a group of fierce performers.

“The dancers give their all. For me, Encounter is about trying to share that power. It’s a dance that everyone can take something away from, Emma said.

Encounter Sydney was developed in collaboration with FORM Dance Projects and award-winning Australian artists & is presented as part of the Opera House’s UnWrapped Program

May 18-21. Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. FREE. Info:

Related Posts