Maggi Phillips 1944-2015
In her own words
Curriculum Vitae and Background to FEATS Unlimited
Born Melbourne 1944
Entered Ballet School at the age of six on my mother’s initiative and became addicted
Trained Cecchetti, at Box Hill Ballet School then through to the Advanced Syllabus at the National Theatre Ballet School. The “National” at this epoch was very performance orientated in an apprentice type system. Repertoire from ‘corps’ to soloist include ‘Swan Lake’, ‘Giselle’, Polotsian Dances’, ‘Graduation Ball’, ‘Les Sylphides’, ‘Choreateum’, ‘Peter and the Wolf’, and operas ‘Aida’, operettas ‘Student Prince’, and Desert Song’. Main Teachers were Madame Saranova, William Corse, Noelle Aitken, Athol Willoughby, Bruce Morrow, Colin Peasley, many of whom doubled up as partners.
Influences beyond the confines of classical ballet, circus, West Side Story, Marcel Marceau, Alvin Ailey, Fellini, Cocteau, and literature and movies from European, all of whom compounded towards the search for a broader view.
Moved out to study Ballet with Rex Reid, Ted Miller, and most importantly with Robert Pamie, and all mixed up with gaining a Commonwealth Scholarship on matriculating from Burwood high School and proceeding into a fruitless year studying Humanities at a fledging Monash University.
Unable to gain a place in the newly formed Australian Ballet, eventually moved into Jazz and the commercial theatre. First employment “Black and White Minstrels” 1964
1965 travelled overseas, to see the world, especially Europe. First job was with the ‘Casino de Paris’ followed by eight years under Dois Haug (Choreographer Moulin Rouge) as Capitaine and soloist, with one of her touring troupes. During this time travelled and worked in Europe, Middle East, and South America, in cabaret, theatres, casinos, and circuses. A further education that had very much to do with people and places, and not terribly much with dance that was challenging.
1973/74 Panama working with an ex partner Luis Rodriguez, became pregnant and chose to return to Australia as the place to bring up my child.
1974 Darwin, because my parents had moved there in the interim. Gave birth to Anna and was fortunate to be absent for Cyclone Tracey.
In 1975 post cyclone Darwin, despite all former intentions to devote myself to motherhood, became involved in teaching jazz as after-school activities for the youngsters around.
1976 1977 teaching for YWCA, community college and Brown’s Mart along with choreography for students and amateur theatre. The Magi’s Mob of those days eventuated in the beginnings of the Dance Mob
1978 Brown’s Mart of those days encourage me to take on what I often talked about - dance performance, as theatre, as distinct from the ballet school concert. This was ‘Movin Out” and the establishment of the Dance Mob is an amateur company.
1979 the non-advent of employment for the arduous task, and general abuse by the community of that which I was able to contribute not only as choreographer, teacher, but in many meetings concerned with the arts and education, led me to concede to the ‘real’ world, in NT library service. An eye opening year of public services appointment - knowledge that I could do it along with the rest, knowledge that I did not wish to remain in a basically cynical environment.
1980 offered part-time employment with Brown’s Mart, brief to develop dance in the NT, along with an artist in schools residency at Anula Primary. With a group of Anula kids was the choreographer for the first ‘Beat’ and the real experience of working within the education system. With Brown’s Mart was a return performances. It’s all in the game and 1000 Christmas beads live entertainment for kids. Also went Bush on my first ‘Kids Convoy’.
1981 Employed full-time Brown’s Mart in the capacity of Dance Officer. Main initiative for the year - guest choreographer Andris Toppe for Darwin Dance Mob ‘Scrambled Legs on Toast’, Christmas Production ‘The Christmas Capers of Cocky, Wally and Co’ with Simon Hopkinson, writer and director. Continued with participation in community events and ‘Kids Convoy’
1982 guests teachers for various community groups, Margaret Walker and Andris Toppe. ‘Artist in the Community’ Bowral - an Australia Council conference. Major productions “Pallets of Limbs’ with guest choreographer Cheryl Stock. Christmas “You Don’t Have To Shut Your Eyes’ with Bob Thorneycroft. New initiative pilot program in schools - two months also with Bob Thorneycroft ‘I Can Do It Too’.
1983 ‘Backtracks’ community theatre with Cheryl Stock as a guest director and choreographer. ‘Kookaburra Pond’ with Andris Toppe and Julie Shanahan. This was our first tour, with the Arts Council. Cabaret with Brown’s Mart Personnel (Christmas).
1984 ‘Darwin Species ‘guest choreographer Peter Matthews. First season of Feats Unlimited - in schools (three months) ‘Change Front’ - theatre Productions ‘Secret Sites’ with guest choreographer Bob Thorneycroft (1 month). This was the first fully professional contract.
1985 Feats second season. Seven months, new initiative musician/composer in residence Felicity Provin and part-time administrator. Season covered schools program ’Time Look’ primary and ‘Odds and Evens Secondary. Tour is to Jabiru, Oenpelli, Katherine, Barunga, Beswick, and Gove. In theatre ‘Syncopations’. Co-production with Dance North ‘Dance Unlimited’.
1986 Feats season. Six months plus full-time administrator Kim Royal. In schools ‘Hinges’ and additional secondary repertoire. Bastille cabaret performance ‘Viva la France’. Major theatre performance ‘Many Moves’ with the Swamp Jockeys at the Darwin Performing Arts Centre. Guest choreographers Gary Lester, Kai Tai Chan. Drumming up Darwin a community music and dance event with ethnic communities.
1987 Feats season. Feats attended small dance company gathering Melbourne in January. Six months in schools, ‘Colourscapes’ primary, ‘The Square Bush” secondary. Tours - Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Ali Carung, Yulara, NT. Indulkana, Coober Pedy, Woomera, SA. Come Out Dance Focus Adelaide. In theatre ‘Not Until Now’ with guest choreographer Andris Toppe.
This CV covers the main events and experiences of my life. The formation of Feats was an initiative Brown’s Mart Community Arts Project, and was in direct response to the circumstances and cultural emergence of the community. Coming from a community arts environment, Feats is unique in Australia, as a professional dance company. The experiences along the way have been pertinent to the directions of the company, which at once aspires towards an ever-improving technical and artistic base and simultaneously aimed at performance flexibility to enable the company to service isolated and remote communities.
Maggi Phillips 1988
Vale Maggi Phillips
Tracks Dance Company wishes to extend our condolences Anna Phillips and to the family of Maggi Phillips. Maggi was an inspiration and pioneer in bringing modern dance to Darwin. Her classes, dance education company (Feats Unlimited), choreography for theatre groups, and support of emerging talent served many. Maggi brought new dancers and choreographers to Darwin in the late 1970’s and 1980’s and established a model for exciting dance development. Her growing of the Northern Territory dance community, especially in the area of dance education, touched so many Territorians, especially: the likes of Ken Conway (Executive Officer at Brown’s Mart Community Arts) and all the staff there working with Maggi until she left to relocate to Perth, Sarah Calver (dancer with Feats Unlimited, community dance development officer with Brown’s Mart, co-founding director of Tracks, now Head of Dance Darwin High School) and her husband Matt James and daughter Tessa, Marita Smith (dancer with Feats and now head of dance at Casuarina Secondary College), Janet Robinson, (a previous Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre Artistic Director), all of the many dancers in Maggi’s Mob (later to become the Darwin Dance Mob), local dancers and choreographers and teachers like Julia Quinn (now Darwin High School) and Joanna Noonan (now Essington School), and the current Tracks Artistic Directors Tim Newth and David McMicken.
Relocating to Perth to work at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), Maggi continued to make a major contribution to the Australian National dance landscape.
Her sharp intelligence and questioning nature, along with her vitality and warmth, will be missed.
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