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Prof Juanita Praeg


Associate Professor in Performance Studies and Choreography


Juanita has extensive experience as a performer, choreographer, educator and researcher, having worked in the academy and the performing arts profession for over 30 years. Her interest in teaching is to engage critically and creatively with performance studies as a vital discourse and practice within the South African context. She has accumulated her teaching experience within selected tertiary educational structures as well as from working within project-based professional theatre and community contexts.

Juanita holds a Masters degree (cum laude) in Choreography and Theatre Studies and is currently working towards her PhD.  Ms 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 over the past 25 years. She has been Artistic Director for the company since 2010 and has an active practice-as-research profile. 

In 2011, she was recipient of the Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award at Rhodes University and in August 2011 performed a public lecture which spoke to her teaching pedagogy and professional experience of the performing arts in the context of development challenges.

She was Head of the Drama Department at Rhodes University from 2013 to 2015. 

Juanita is currently working on a chapter for a book on South African playwright Reza de Wet. She is in the final throes of completing her PhD entitled: ‘The political promise of choreography and/as research: First Physical Theatre Company’s manifesto and repertory, 1993 – 2015.’



1996                Masters Degree in Dance and Theatre Studies (cum laude); Rhodes University

 1989                Honours Degree in Drama and Dance (cum laude); Rhodes University

 1986                B.A. Rhodes University: Major subjects: English, Industrial Sociology and Drama (cum laude).


Employment History

2002—2018: Lecturer, Rhodes University Drama Department

1994—2018: Freelance performer and choreographer with First Physical Theatre Company

1996—2001: Part-time Lecturer at the Rhodes University Drama department

1990—1993: Lecturer in the Drama Department at University of Stellenbosch


Professional Achievements

  • Appointed: Head of Drama: 2013- 2015
  • Member of selection panel for Ovation Awards at the National Arts Festival 2013 and 2014
  • Artistic Director: First Physical Theatre Company: 2010-2018
  • Award: Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Teachers Award: 2011
  • Women’s Arts Festival in Durban commission recognised with an FNB Vita Nomination for Most Outstanding Female Dancer: 1999
  • Rhodes University Woman of the Year in 2007, for outstanding achievement in the Performing Arts

 Creative Work

Evidence of a substantial body of work: both as an academic (research outputs include both theoretical peer reviewed articles and Practice-as-Research outcomes) and the body of work produced over 30 years as a professional performer and professional choreographer. 

Juanita’s professional performance profile extends from the late 1980’s. Most of her performance work has been with First Physical Theatre Company and corresponds with the Festivals and tours cited under the company’s extraordinary repertory of original choreographies (over 200 works).

Selected Choreographies

Juanita Finestone-Praeg … has a track record as a charismatic performer, gutsy choreographer, sterling educationist and researcher in dance and theatre performance … mesmerizing audiences with (her) matured virtuosity ( A. Sichel: Star: Tonight: 3 August 2004).

  • Choreographic and performance collaborations with Southern Women (1990-1992). This Cape Town based, all-female company won the A.A. Vita Award for Contemporary Choreography at the 1991 FNB Vita Dance Umbrella for the work, Wild Honey.  This work was toured extensively in major centres in South Africa.
  • International Tour of The Unspeakable Story: Fin de Siècle Festival: Nantes: France;
  • Work commissioned for the Women’s Arts Festival in Durban in 1999 was recognised with an FNB Vita Nomination for Most Outstanding Female Dancer.
  •  Commissioned by the Dance Factory to create 37 degrees of fear … (2004) for the Women in Arts Festival. The work was reconstructed for the 2005 National Festival of the Arts and played to acclaim and full houses on the Main programme of the National Arts Festival.
  • As part of First Physical Theatre Company’s Choreography-in-Camera series, Breath (2009) was choreographed by Juanita and reworked for the film by Acty Tang. A second film, nightflower (2012), was devised and choreographed by Juanita and edited and filmed with Jeanette Ginslov.
  • The collaborative 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 Cue (written by Cue reporter, Lila O’Donovan) referenced the work as, ‘An emptiness full of life … pushing boundaries to the end’.
  • Other notable works include Inner Piece (2009) and Monogram (2008).


Public Performances and Appearances


Juanita’s professional performance profile extends from the late 1980’s. Most of her performance work has been with First Physical Theatre Company and corresponds with the Festivals and tours cited under the company’s extraordinary repertory of original choreographies (over 120). In performances of The Unspeakable Story in 2004 and 2005, reviewers noted her performance in some of the following ways:

Juanita Finestone-Praeg is magnificent as the brooding mother, with occasional flashes of manic energy … her final fall, backwards from the height of her son’s shoulders, into the outstretched arms of waiting dancers, is one of those defining moments in dance, and it’s worth going to see this production just for that (Heather Mackie: Business Day: 11 February 2005).

It must be mentioned that this production would not be as impressive if it weren’t for the powerful presence and potent physical expressiveness of Juanita Finestone-Praeg (Zingi Mkefa: Cue: 5 July 2004).

In 2010 the performance in the Butoh work, amanogawa (2010), a collaboration with Swedish choreographer, Frauke, was called ’a complete revelation’ by dance critic and specialist writer, Adrienne Sichel. In a review she commented:

And there two pioneers were gloriously in amanogawa/The Heavenly River … Gordon and Finestone-Praeg, in particular, encapsulated the transformative and spiritual nature of the deep, dark poetry of the human body, (The Star: Tonight: Tuesday 13 July 2010).

Research Activity

Juanita has accumulated a diverse research profile with writing experience ranging from academic papers to writing outcomes for tertiary education and FET syllabi (SGB executive committee member) and performance and choreography studies courses. Her choreographic work, 16 kinds of emptiness, was accepted for the Practice-as-Research National Initiative and received exceptional peer review. She is currently working towards her PhD on choreographic trends within South Africa. 

Selected research outputs include:

1995 – Interview: Anja Huisman and Juanita Finestone Talk to Reza de Wet; in South African Theatre Journal, 9/1 May 1995.

1996 – Body Intervention: A Perspective on South African Theatre.  Paper on the proceedings of the ‘South African Theatre As/And Intervention’ conference held in London, 30 August 1996.

1997 – The Muse and the Archaeologist: Re-visiting the Creative Sites of The Unspeakable Story: a paper presented at BASA Workshop on Artistic Collaboration. Also published by First Physical Theatre Company in their educational CD rom (2001).

1999 – Contemporary Theatre Review: an international journal. Special issue: Women, Politics and Performance in South African Theatre Today, Goodman, L. (ed): Harwood: Academic Publishers. Article entitled: Unwilling Champion: An Interview with Reza de Wet (Huisman and Finestone).

2000 CD Rom: Physical Intelligence! Research officer and writer.

2001  Physical Imaginings: The translation of memory in the danceplays of First Physical, a paper presented at the international Confluences III conference held at the University of Cape Town.

2002  ‘Memory in Translation’, a paper presented at the Shuttle Dance History Research Skills Development Project (a Danish-South African exchange) and published in Footsteps Across the Landscape of Dance in South Africa.

2006 Dramatic Learning Spaces Conference: Reflective (a)musings on 16 kinds of emptiness: Reframing research for practice.

2006 – Paper published in the accredited South African Theatre Journal: Volume 21: Reflective (a)musings on 16 kinds of emptiness: Reframing research for practice.

2010 Two papers published in accredited journal: South African Theatre Journal: Volume 24: 2010: (i) p16 – 29: Intimate revolts – some approaches to pedagogy and performer training in Physical Theatre: In Conversation with First Physical Theatre Company’s Artistic Director: Gary Gordon and (ii) p259 – 279: Body of Questions: Book of Changes: Event-texts from the Butoh work amanogawa.

2011 Keynote address at the Confluences Conference in July 2011. Title: Difference Is Revolting.

2011 Public lecture at Rhodes University as recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Teaching: Body of Questions:  Towards a Democratised Performance.

2015 – Body of Questions: The Political Promise of Choreography? Reflections from current South African choreographic case studies from the Eastern Cape: 2009 – 2014. Confluences 8 Conference Proceedings. Negotiating Contemporary Dance in Africa.


Telephone (direct) : +27 6038969

email | j.praeg at ru.ac.za

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‌Updated 28-02-18 SM

Last Modified: Wed, 28 Feb 2018 14:43:54 SAST


Last Modified: Tue, 02 Oct 2018 10:25:09 SAST