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FIRST PHYSICAL TO FOLD (article first published : 2006-05-11)

The Grahamstown-based First Physical Theatre Company has announced its intention to cease operating in its present form.

Due to insufficient funds being made available to the company, six performers, two apprentices, and three support staff will be released from their contracts at the end of July this year.

The company, which was established in 1993 by esteemed choreographer, Gary Gordon, had matured into one of South Africa's few sustained professional contemporary dance companies.

The two most significant sources of public funding for independent companies, the National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund and the National Arts Council had previously supported the company with a two-year grant of R1,2 million and a three-year grant of R750,000 respectively.

The most recent one-year grants of R390,864 and R300,000 awarded to First Physical were significantly less than the company had applied or hoped for.

"To maintain a consistently high level of professionalism and the extent of our involvement in artistic production, education and development, we do require significant financial support from outside sources", said Managing Director Calum Stevenson. "Unfortunately there are few bodies that are willing or able to fund our largest expense - our salary bill. Sadly, the time has come where we are unable to sustain the company in its present form despite several additional grants from private and international sources.

"After July,” he added, “the company will fulfil all remaining obligations in terms of various grant agreements. Meantime, the company's board will meet to discuss future options."

First Physical was most recently seen in the award-winning Bessie's Head at the Cape Town Festival and the Maitisong Festival in Gaborone. Their latest show, Vrypas was nominated for a Kanna award at the Absa-KKNK in Oudtshoorn.

Their line up for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown includes 16 kinds of emptiness choreographed by Juanita Finestone-Praeg, Vrypas and New Voices including the launch of the First Physical Student Company.

The company has also been extensively involved in skills development programmes over the past three years, runs a Youth Company, initiated an apprenticeship programme for emerging professional dancers from the Eastern Cape, and runs an annual dance festival.

In addition, company members present schools workshops and residencies in the Western and Eastern Cape, Gauteng, and KwaZulu-Natal as well as develop and distribute educational resources.




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