Artistic Director: Gary Gordon
Gary Gordon Artistic Director
Gary Gordon resides in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape where he is Professor of the Drama Department at Rhodes University. He has worked and trained in many areas of theatre but his specialist areas include the practice, teaching and research of choreography, physical performance and contemporary dance. He founded the First Physical Theatre Company in 1993. This was the first physical theatre company in South Africa investigating an integrated approach to the making and performing of theatre. First Physical is now noted for its theatrical collaboration, choreographic innovation, education, development and research. Gary specialised in dance studies at Laban in London where he obtained a Masters Degree in choreography. From 1989 to 1992 he was a member of the teaching faculty and gained extensive experience as an educator, choreographer and performer in Europe and the United Kingdom. He was Co-ordinator of Choreographic Studies at Laban and worked with a number of leading British choreographers. He has made an impressive amount of works for First Physical and his students. Gary was the first recipient of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for contemporary dance (1989) – an award acknowledging his choreography and outstanding contribution to dance in South Africa. He was awarded the FNB Vita Choreographer of the Year for Shattered Windows (1994), FNB Vita Most Outstanding Presentation of an Original Contemporary Dance Work for The Unspeakable Story (1996), and a FNB Vita Special Award for Choreography for Bessie’s Head (2000). He was the first recipient of the Eastern Cape Premier’s Award for Choreographic Excellence (2000), and was awarded the Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Teaching (2000).
His first theatre collaborations included playwrights, actors, designers and composers and lead to the major danceplays: The Unspeakable Story and Bessie’s Head. Recent collaborations with a theatre director led to his choreographing the provocative Vrypas (2006) and haunting Lady Anne (2007). He still continues to work as a physical performer and appeared in Juanita Finestone-Praeg’s highly successful 16 Kinds of Emptiness (2006). Last year he performed in his own work Go described as “exquisitely poetic dance theatre”. His most recent performance was in a digital installation at Spier Contemporary 2007.
Gary was engaged last year to mentor Choreographic Laboratories in both Johannesburg and Durban. A number of his graduates and company members have secured major national awards in choreography and dance performance. This year he has an impressive 6 Masters students specialising in choreography. He is determined to secure a firm financial basis for First Physical to continue the celebration of professional choreography and dance performance in the Eastern Cape.
Assistant Artistic Director: Juanita Finestone-Praeg
Ms Finestone-Praeg holds a Masters Degree (Cum Laude) in Choreography and Theatre Studies. She has extensive experience as a performer, choreographer, educator and researcher in dance and theatre performance.
Ms Finestone–Praeg, the longest standing member of the First Physical Theatre Company, has contributed to the company’s vision and been actively involved in all its research, educational, community, performance and choreographic programmes.
Ms Finestone-praeg’s choreographic signature has evolved over more than 18 years of working intimately within professional performance and educational choreographic contexts in South Africa. She has worked with Vita Award winning dance company, Southern Women, in Cape Town. The longest standing member of First Physical Theatre Company, she has contributed to the company’s vision and been actively involved in all its research, educational, performance and choreographic programmes. She is presently Assistant Artistic Director for First Physical Theatre Company.
Ms Finestone-Praeg’s work commissioned for the Women’s Arts Festival in Durban in 1999 was recognised with an FNB Vita Nomination for Most Outstanding Female Dancer. She has choreographed and co-choreographed numerous works for the First Physical Theatre Company. She was commissioned independently by the Dance Factory to create 37 degrees of fear … (2004) for the Women in Arts Festival. The work was reconstructed for 2005 National Festival of the Arts and played to acclaim and full houses on the Main programme of the National Arts Festival.
Her collaboration and site specific work, 16 kinds of emptiness (2006), was cited as one of the “most popular shows” (The Herald : Festival spokesperson, Gilly Hemphill) at the 2006 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. A front page review in the Cue (written by Cue reporter, Lila O’Donovan) referenced the work as “An emptiness full of life … Pushing boundaries to the end”. The Herald, by Alison Canter, described the work as “challenging, sublime and exquisite … Finestone-Praeg excelled in her vision of exploring varieties of emptiness through various forms of intense physical expression, including original movement and inspirational texts …all 16 vignettes are gloriously breath-taking”, while a Cue Short Cuts reviewer called the work “a brilliant, ingenious collaboration. Innovative and remarkably moving”.
Ms Finestone-Praeg is also a senior lecturer at the Rhodes University Drama Department and facilitates the teaching of the Honours Physical Theatre course: works created for performance here include: The Journey to Fez (choreographed in 2002 and re-constructed for the company: 2004 Dance Umbrella and National Arts Festival), I have danced with the spider (2003), Slow Island (2004), Stage(ed) Directions (2006), Oh! The Places You’ll Go! (2007), and Monogram (2008).
Company Manager: Alan Parker
Alan began his training at Rhodes University where he specialised in physical theatre, choreography and dance culture and education, obtaining a Masters degree, with distinction, in Drama. He has worked with the company on a part-time basis since 2005 as a performer, choreographer, teacher and researcher, before taking the joint role of performer/manager in 2009. He has appeared in various First Physical productions including Gary Gordon’s “Tread”, “Go” and “Ozymandias”; Juanita Finestone’s “Monogram” and Acty Tang’s dance-film “Textures”.
As a choreographer Alan has presented work at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, the FNB Dance Umbrella in Johannesburg, the Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience in Durban and the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees in Oudtshoorn. His choreographic works with the company include “Attic Stories” (2006) for the First Physical Student Company, “The Brightness of Beige” (2007), “Between” (2007), “Ekspedisies” (2008) and “Major/Minor” (2009).
Alan has choreographed works for Acty Tang, Khomiso Productions and the Guild Theatre Dance Company and also teaches extensively for both the company as well as the Rhodes Drama department in contemporary dance techniques, physical theatre, contact improvisation, Ashtanga yoga, and overseas the company's community dance training initiative, BodyForms.