It is with great sadness that Ausdance National farewells Maggi Phillips. Dr Phillips was an extraordinary contributor to dance in Australia, as a teacher, researcher and dance scholar. Maggi passed away in Perth on the evening of 31 March, surrounded by family and friends. Her dedication to dance practice and scholarship is well known and our heartfelt sympathy goes out to her family, colleagues and students.
Most recently Maggi was Associate Professor and the Coordinator of Research and Creative Practice at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, a position that fused her disparate influences and her desire to privilege such diversity in scholarship and access. She was a much-loved supervisor in the school’s postgraduate program and wrote on dance from numerous perspectives, including cultural distinctiveness, singular knowledge and danced thought. Together with colleagues from QUT and Deakin University, Maggi led the Australian Learning and Teaching Council project, Dancing between Diversity and Consistency: Refining Assessment in Post Graduate Degrees in Dance, which highlighted the particularities of multi-modal artistic research.
In 2010, Maggi received an Australian Dance Award for her Services to Dance Education, and in 2013 took on the role of Editor of Brolga—an Australian journal about dance, overseeing editions about education and dialogues. She was also a great contributor to the World Dance Alliance, presenting at many forums and serving on review and editorial committees.
Last year friends from around Australia and the world sent messages in celebration of Maggi's 70th birthday—paying tribute to her broad contribution in developing artists, academics and dance in all corners of the globe, particulary through the World Dance Alliance. Secretary-General of the World Dance Alliance and long-time friend and colleague Cheryl Stock wrote at that time
Maggi, you are the ultimate quiet achiever – an extraordinary life in dance, some of which is well known and some of which is tantalisingly unknown. What we clearly see from your academic work is someone with a passion for knowledge (of which you have prodigious amounts), an ever enquiring mind that takes you on all kinds of literary, cultural and fantastical journeys and an intellectual capacity that is awe-inspiring and which you generously share with colleagues and students alike. A workaholic with a zest for life, a voyager who is a wonderful travel companion, a researcher who knows what questions to investigate, I consider you a long-time and dear friend.
I remember first hanging out with you in the early ’80s in Darwin, where you were at the time a mover and shaker at Brown’s Mart Community Arts Centre and also Artistic Director of Feats. You invited me several times to undertake projects there. What fun-filled crazy times I enjoyed with you during the Darwin days! I recall those beautiful ballet feet and legs and expressive arms. We worked together on a large community project, Backtracks, involving over 100 people from all sorts of backgrounds and skills bases – I even persuaded you to dance, in a ball gown I recall. You were very accommodating of my sometimes crazy eclectic ideas (as long as they were interesting!) What I mostly remember of those steamy troppo days and evenings was your infectious deep throated laugh (still wonderfully frequent) and the stories – ah the stories! – around the kitchen table – of your days in the circus dancing bareback on elephants (or were they horses?).
That you are a great shopper is well known, seeking out the most amazing treasures, mainly to wear in exotic combinations which look just fantastic on your slim body. From pottery in the Atherton Tablelands to the markets in Taiwan, to the most exquisite fabrics in India, you always find that special something. Your forensic ability to find such purchases are more than matched by your forensic ability in research to go deeply into your research topics. I feel privileged to have worked with you and Kim Vincs on the 3-year research project you led – such a collegial, pleasurable and rewarding experience.
Despite your challenging health problems, you bear them with such dignity, lack of complaint and good spirits, that I always feel uplifted in your company. Even though we do not see much of each other, your support and friendship is treasured. Thank you Maggi.
Today Cheryl noted
Maggi in her quiet manner, inspired us with her insightful musings, extraordinary intellect, imaginative and scholarly writings, witty humour and throaty laugh, and above all with her non-judgmental and always positive support and unconditional friendship.
Vale Maggi Phillips, by Nina Levy. Dance Australia