Ballet star Janet Lindup back on stage to take on hilarious ugly sister role in Cinderella

2018-10-15 10:33
Janet Lindup as Daffodil in Cinderella

Janet Lindup got much more than she bargained for when she was enticed from retirement to play the role of bossy, larger-than-life Ugly Sister Daffodil in the Cape Town City Ballet’s production of Cinderella – but she’s loving the experience. She spoke to Eugenie du Preez.

Cape Town - When Janet Lindup hung up her tutu for the last time as a ballerina in the role of Cinderella with longstanding ballet partner Johnny Bovang as her prince, she could not have imagined that 20 years later they would be partners again in the same ballet – but in very different roles.

Janet retired from her position as principal dancer of CAPAB (now the Cape Town City Ballet) on New Year’s Eve in 1998. “When I retired I missed the stage incredibly - I love being onstage; it’s really part of why I had this career.” But she knew she could always be asked to do character roles like Clara’s mother in The Nutcracker or the queen in Swan Lake – parts which involve standing around and sitting on thrones looking regal, but not much dancing. “So I have kept my hand in over the years since my retirement, and it’s been quite fun.”

Her one stipulation has been that she only does “glamorous roles”. Looking at her reflection in the mirror of her dressing room at the Artscape theatre, where we manage to schedule an interview amid the chaos of a dress rehearsal, she laughs “and here I am, looking like an idiot!”.

Janet tells how she took on much more than she bargained for when she accepted the role of the Ugly Sister Daffodil - usually taken by a male dancer - in the Cape Town City Ballet’s production of Cinderella. “It’s been quite an eye-opener for me. When you’re doing the prince or Cinderella you obviously see the Ugly Sisters, but you don’t really take cognisance of what they’re doing because you’re so concentrated on your own role. 

Much more than just putting on a green wig

“So when it was suggested that Johnny and I become the Ugly Sisters, I was like ‘I’m up for it’ and ‘this is going to be really good fun’.” She soon realised just how mistaken this perception was. “It is so much hard work – it is so physical and there’s so much more to the role than just putting on make-up and a green wig.”

Janet says she always loved the acting part of being a dancer. “The acting roles were always my favourites, like Giselle and Cinderella and Swan Lake, when you have to get into a character and become the character. I always enjoyed those roles.”

Turning back to her role as Daffodil, she says: “So now I am just doing the acting side, and for the Ugly Sisters it involves an incredible amount of acting. Really, you’ve got to act your way through it from beginning to end. It is truly exhausting!”

It isn’t hard to see what she means either. The Ugly Sisters play a prominent part in all but a few scenes. Daffodil, appropriately clad in green (this jealous damsel cannot bear anyone to steal the limelight), fumes and rages her way through the ballet, throwing a full-blown temper tantrum in the final act and keeping her bumbling but rather lovable sister Violet (Johnny Bovang, pretty in pink and surprisingly at home in clunky heels) firmly under her thumb. 

As Daffodil, Janet sustains incredibly high energy levels right up to the final curtain call, which involves a delightful comedy sequence which had the opening night audience in stitches. 

She admits that in one aspect being Daffodil goes very much against the grain. “Everything’s light-hearted with me and I have a good sense of humour, so to be this ugly, mean person has been quite a challenge.” But she jokes irrepressibly: “According to my husband, I don’t even really need to act that out!” 
About being back onstage with her former dance partner Johnny Bovang, she says: “It’s like we never left off. Seriously, I’m as comfortable as anything and that’s what’s really been the nicest part about it.” 

Janet Lindup

(Mervyn Williams as Violet and Janet Lindup as Daffodil. Photo: Supplied/Cape Town City Ballet)

From demure Cinderella to domineering Daffodil

Looking at the differences between the roles of Cinderella and Daffodil, Janet points out the huge contrast between the demure Cinderella and the domineering Daffodil.

“I loved being Cinderella because one of the nicest entrances for any ballerina is that entrance in the ballroom scene, where she arrives in her tutu and her sparkly glass slippers and all eyes are on her.” This, carried along by the wonderful score of Russian composer Prokofiev, is a “real magic moment”, says Janet. 

“Now, Daffodil is just constantly larger than life and grumpy and really such a boss – but it’s fun and I have found my niche,” jokes Janet. 
It may have been harder than she ever dreamed it would be, but the ballerina says it’s been worth the effort: “It’s been quite a thing – my body’s aching and I’m hurting all over, but it’s been rewarding I must say, and it’s been really good to get back onstage with Johnny again.”

• The Cape Town City Ballet offers 10 performances of Cinderella until 21 October. Tickets cost R120 to R350 from Computicket or Artscape Dial-a-Seat on (021) 421 7695. There will be a special performance in aid of the CTCB’s Outreach and Development Programme on 19 October at 16:00 with tickets at R100 each. Get tickets here!  

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