Repertory Dancers Northwest
Repertory Dancers Northwest
Phyllis Legters established Repertory Dancers Northwest in the summer of 1978 under the sponsorship of Pacific Dance Center for which she was owner and artistic director. She drew upon the local Seattle dance talent available to her at the Center and through auditions to form the original company. By Fall of that year, she prepared a repertoire of dance works and began presenting the Company in both informal and formal concert settings. Phyllis was a faculty member of Seattle University (of which Ray Terrill was a graduate) and led its dance major program. Her position there offered her access to the University's performing arts center as an ongoing performance venue. The original company members included Marta Bennett, Cynthia Lee Brooks, Allen Cox, Patricia Mowry, Alan Pietsch, Kathyn Ramos, Dean Spears. And, Ray Terrill was asked to join the company as an apprentice upon auditioning the Summer of 1978.This thus, began Ray's official start as a professional modern dance artist. Phyllis led the company as Artistic Director and tirelessly sought funding through corporate, foundation and regional arts funding organizations to forward performance opportunities for the Company.
Phyllis' artistic objective was to establish a repertory company that would showcase and present the works of established and emerging choreographers residing in the Pacific Northwest. The Company also performed works by national choreographers such as Ethel Butler, Steven Heck, and James DeBolt but Phyllis focused primarily on providing a venue for regional choreographic talents. Phyllis herself was a fine choreographer and contributed many audience favorites to the repertory.
Phyllis' technical foundation was the Martha Graham technique. And, she rigorously kept up with the ongoing evolution of the technique by attending yearly teacher certification workshops at the Graham school based in New York City. She maintained her authorization as an official teacher of the Graham technique up-to-date. Phyllis also hosted annual regional Martha Graham Dance Company workshops at Pacific Dance Center taught by MGDC members every summer. I was extremely honored to be selected to perform in an informal presentation of Graham's classic work "Night Journey" during the summer of 1979 set by the late Tim Wengerd. This gave me the chance to master hands free backfalls which I can still do with ease today. Also memorable were the post-performance MGDC parties that Phyllis hosted at her large home each time the Martha Graham Dance Company performed in Seattle.
My fondest memories of my time spent with Phyllis and performing with Repertory Dancers Northwest was the wonderful technique classes Phyllis taught. And, the fabulous live musical accompaniment that was provided by a former offical Graham company accompaniest named "Louis." He accompanied our classes while working on his masters degree in Conducting at the University of Washington the entire time I was a Company member. He also provided invaluable critique to class members on the MG style too. My absolute favorite piece of Phyllis' choreography was the 'Capricorn Concerto' set to music by my favorite American composer Samuel Barber.
I left the Compay to move to Portland Oregon in the Fall of 1980. But, from 1984 through 1986 upon relocating back to Seattle, I joined the faculty of Pacific Dance Center at Phyllis' invitation to teach Martha Graham-based technique classes for a period of three years. At that time, I was most fortunate to meet a fabulous dance artist who subsequently became my beloved protégé and life long close friend, Peggy Gilliam. She is a dance artist of the highest caliber and honestly, one of the two or three finest performers I have have ever witnessed on the stage. When I was invited to re-join Oregon Dance Consort in late 1986 as Co-Artstic Director, Peggy decided to follow me to Portland and work with ODC for the next several years. I will forever be indebted to Phyllis for providing my introduction to Modern Dance and my life work. She believed in my talent and took on a great risk to invite me to join her Company which marked the start of my life as a professional concert dance artist.