Veronica Paeper was dancing before she could walk. And when her parents moved from Port Shepstone to Cape Town, they inadvertently moved their daughter into the heart of the dance world, that lofty space where Dulcie Howes was hauling potential out from any would-be dancer to create world class names like David Poole, John Cranko, Alfred Rodrigues, Johaar Mosaval, Petrus Bosman, and Desmond Doyle.

Veronica fell under the tutelage of Dulcie as well as David Poole, Frank Staff and another SA dancer, the first to make a name at Sadler’s Wells, Pamela Chrimes. She entered a school where rigorous discipline was practiced, where passion and inspired vision were tactile elements. She grabbed at its tendrils, going where ever they might lead. She first became a principal dancer with CAPAB, PACT and PACOFS and then a choreographer. Her first work, in 1972, was John the Baptist with costume design by Peter Cazelet with whom she would work for the next 25 years. She never stopped, creating; over 40 ballets in a prolific career; memorable ballets like Spartacus with 25 male dancers; works with music as diverse as Verdi, Ernest Bloch, Bizet, Shostakovich and Peter Klatzow.

And to maintain those high standards set by Dulcie Howes, Veronica admits to being a tyrant and martinet. Ballet is a demanding and exacting discipline.

“…if you’re a director of any of the performing arts, you have to be a benign dictator…”