I graduated from the Viljandi Culture College in 1995 as a dance teacher and choreographer. Since 1998 I have been a dance teacher at Viljandi. In 1996 I had my first international experience as a dance teacher, teaching contemporary dance and improvisation at Chişinău State Drama Theatre and School of Choreography in Moldova.
1995-1997 I completed studies at Fine 5 Dance School as a dancer and choreographer, and continued my education as a choreographer at American Dance Festival (1996 USA) and studies of artistic skills at European Dance Development Centre, Arnhem Institute for the Arts (2002 in Holland). I was one of the founder members of Dance Company BOX RM (1993-2001), improvisational company PROIMPRO (1999 - 2005) and Estonian Creative Dancers’ Association. As a freelance dance artist I have created several dance performances and made choreography for drama performances. I have been involved in several cooperation projects in Estonia and abroad and danced in performances by acknowledged choreographers.
I teach at the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy (UT VCA) Performing Arts Department the following subjects: contemporary dance (perception of body, floorwork techniques, release), contemporary dance teaching practice, composition, dance improvisation, and improvisation for dancers and musicians.
I am actively engaged in developing international education between universities and freelance dance artists, and within the framework of the study programme I initiate creative study-meetings and performances both in Estonia and abroad.
In collaboration between dance and music students and teachers of UT VCA and choreographer Claire Filmon (FRA) as a supervisor, the following study projects have been staged: 2016 performance “Coloured leaves”; 2014 Z.A.P (dancers) and “Tell Me” (dancers and musicians of UT VCA, students of the University of Poitiers); 2011"La petite Caravane 2"(dancers and musicians of UT VCA, students of the University of Poitiers, including teachers M. Saarva and T. Sulamanize. It was also performed in Theatre Bagnolet); and 2011 “Travels in Time and Space ”. This piece was created in collaboration with students of North Savo Applied Arts School Music and Dance Academy and was also performed in Finland. All the improvisational performances that have been created in the course of studies have been performed at the à Corps Festival in Poitiers, France.
2006- 2008 working out the free improvisation study programme together with Taavi Kerikmäe; effective cooperation between the dance and music students of UT VCA.
2006 Improvisation festival “Improvizz`06” at the Tartu Harbour Theatre. Performance within the framework of study programme of free improvisation. Joint performance with the students of Dance and Music Departments.
2007 Free Improvisations in Pärnu Air in collaboration with the students of Dance and Music Departments. Six open air improvisational performances at the Pärnu Old Mudbath Spa bandstand.
2007 Improvisation Festival “Improvizz`07” at the Tartu Harbour Theatre. The performance was created within the framework of free improvisation study programme together with the dance and music students of UT VCA, with teachers M. Saarva and T. Kerikmäe as supervisors and participants.
2007 Tartu Y-Gallery, video- and photo exhibition of the theatre and visual technology students of UT VCA, dance arts students give an improvisational performance at the opening of the exhibition.
2007 Improvisational performance “Electrosphere” at the November Dance Festival at the Endla Theatre in Pärnu with III- IV course students of the improvisation class of UT VCA (K.Juurik, H.Hütt, L.Niller, Haidak, M.Saarva)
2008 Improvisational performance at the Student Jazz Festival 08, the Kanut Guild Hall, Tallinn, featuring the musicians of TU VCA (Estonia) and the Sibelius Academy Jazz Department (Finland) and dance students of UT VCA (supervised by M. Saarva) meeting in free improvisations.
2015-2016 working out the study programme „Improvisation for musicians and dancers“ together with Themuri Sulamanize, teacher of UT VCA Music Department.
2014 “Connection” improvisational performance on the bridge of Viljandi Old Town in collaboration with Astrid Brünner (Germany, dance, visual arts) and Themuri Sulamanize (Estonia, accordion) on international Hansa days in Viljandi.
2014 Celebrating the 115th anniversary of Ida Urbel, initiated by Mare Tommingas, Ballet Director of theatre Vanemuine, and supported by the Viljandi municipality and UT VCA Department of Performing Arts, at Kondas Centre, Viljandi. Teachers of the Culture Academy Merle Saarva (dance) and Themuri Sulmanidze (piano) performed an improvisational etude.
2012 „Piano Duet“ improvisation together with Themuri Sulamanize. Performance at the Music Triade, Viljandi Orchestra House.
“Hommage à Ella Ilbak” dance performance dedicated to Ella Ilbak, the forerunner of contemporary dance in Estonia. Producer M. Saarva, dramatist Kai Valtna. Choreographers and dancers: Sille Ardel, Kalmer Liimets, Evelyn Uisk, Joonas Tagel, Kristiina Vilipõld. Music by Lauri Lüdimois, lighting artist Emil Kallas (all alumni of UT VCA).
2012 a. Participation in the seminar-festival „Practice Your Classics“ at Artigues-Près-Bordeaux, France, organized by the Le Cuvier centre of contemporary dance with dance teachers and dance teaching students from various European higher educational institutions as participants. I supervised one workshop for the participants, and dance theory lecturer Kai Valtna gave a presentation. Premiere at UT VCA, Viljandi, performances at Le Cuvier, France and Kanut Guild Hall, Tallinn.
2008 Dance performance "Rotation". Premiere at IV November Dance Festival at Endla Theatre, Pärnu. Choreography by M. Saarva in collaboration with students of UT VCA, lighting R.Liivamägi, music by Pink Floyd and Vladislav Delay. Performed by: E. Viskus, K- Maria Heinsalu, T.Marts, M.Saarva (UT VCA) and Simone Kühle (Erasmus exchange student from the University of Vienna).
2001 “Public Ceremony" idea, concept and costumes by Merle Saarva, lihting Raido Mägi. Improvisational performance to 6 students. Performed at the Viljandi Culture College and Kanut Guild Hall, youth event Hypekas.
Participation at the jubilee events of Viljandi Culture College and Viljandi County Educational Forum.
As an Erasmus exchange teacher I have taught at the Turku University of Applied Sciences in 2015, in 2007/2008 at Turku Conservatorium, Finland (techniques of contemporary dance, improvisation), also at the University of Vienna, Performing Art and Dance Department (techniques of contemporary dance) and in 2004 at the meeting of contemporary dance colleges, “3 Internationaler Tantzaustauchs Ruhr”(techniques of contemporary dance), at Pact Zollverein, Essen, Germany.
In 2012 I graduated from the Tallinn University Arts Institute, having completed the Visual Arts Therapy further education programme, and started master’s level studies at the Tallinn University Arts Institute, programme of Arts Therapies, dance and movement therapy (currently finishing my master's degree).
Since 2015 I participate in the team of international project MOMU (Moving Towards Multi-professional work). Cooperation includes 4 European universities: Universitas de Castilla La Manca, UCLM Spain, Turku University of Applied Siencies, Finland, Manchester Metropolitan University, England and University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy, Estonia.