In theory, South Africa's cultural purdah is now over; in practice, importing foreigners to dance or choreograph is just too expensive: 'They do like to be paid in pounds and dollars, says Veronica Paeper, 'and that's a very expensive operation. The punitive exchange rate also makes foreign tours very costly. Cape Fruit hasn't just provided the cash: the sponsor is also shipping the scenery and costumes on one of its banana boats.
Before I had asked a single question, Paeper informs me that the company is 30 per cent black. 'Everyone always asks, she says, wearily. She insists that her use of coloured dancers in traditionally white roles has never been a problem: 'In the middle of the apartheid years, I put on a black Romeo and a white Juliet and nobody turned a hair.
The troupe has prospered despite its cultural isolation, thanks to its strong European connections. It was founded as an amateur group in 1934 by the South African dancer Dulcie Howes, who had studied with Karsavina and danced with Pavlova. Gifted dancers like David Poole had to leave South Africa in order to flourish. He became a principal with Sadler's Wells Ballet and a protege of Ninette de Valois. Poole returned home in the Sixties to teach and direct the Cape Ballet (below), thereby adding another strand to the web stretching out across the world from Covent Garden. At its centre sits De Valois herself, now 96, who will be in the audience at Sadler's Wells next Tuesday.
Hamlet 28-30 Jun 7-9 Jul; Orpheus in the Underworld 1-4 Jul; mixed bill 5-6 Jul. 7.30 all eves. 2.30 mats 2, 6 & 9 Jul. pounds 8-pounds 27.50. Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Ave, EC1 (071-278 8916)
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