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A dance before Christmas: Middleton School of Dance to perform tonight

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Dream fairies Abigail Hand, 12, left, and Baylee Graning, 12, dance as one of two little girls, Anna Katherine McDonough, 11, sleeps on the floor as they practice their portion of the “T’was the Night Before Christmas” dance recital Wednesday night at the City Auditorium.

NATCHEZ — In the rest of the world, it’s the feast of St. Nicholas.

And perhaps that’s fitting, because tonight in Natchez, it’s the night before Christmas.

The Middleton School of Dance will perform its one-night-only production of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” at 7 tonight at the Natchez City Auditorium. The cast features nearly 100 dancers ranging in age from 4 to 18.

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Lauren McCann, 17, turns as she practices the Spanish dancer role. The Middleton School of Dance is putting on the performance at 7 tonight in the City Auditorium.

The ballet follows two mischievous little girls who stay up on the night before Christmas, unwrapping the toys and gifts, which then come alive and dance.

The girls later realize that they need cookies for Santa, and cooks appear, baking cookies — gingerbread men — that come to life. The story goes from there, and includes appearances from the Grinch, Rudolph and the reindeer and Santa himself.

Anna Katherine McDonough, 11, and Miah Wheeler, 10, dance in the production as the little girls.

“We are both really excited about being these two girls because you get to be in the show a lot and learn all these dances,” McDonough said.

“It can get very confusing at times, but when you put it all together it is easy.”

Wheeler said getting in the mindset of her character wasn’t that far of a stretch.

“I don’t want to go to sleep on Christmas either,” she said.

For Lauren McCann, who at 17 is dancing her first solo in the show as the Spanish Dancer, preparing for the show has required a lot of work, both physically and mentally.

“You have to be really sassy to do the dance, which was hard for me because I am a ballet dancer; it is a really interesting dance,” she said.

“I spent a lot of time practicing in front of all the girls in my class. I was nervous at first, but I have gotten used to it.”

But 18-year-old Sela Roberts, who will perform her second solo as the Snow Queen, said experience doesn’t take the edge off of pre-performance jitters, especially when she will also have to dance with the show’s three snow princesses.

“I am more nervous about this one because I never realized how much time and effort went into being the Snow Queen,” she said.

“I try to do a good job because I know that what I do (the snow princesses) will do.”

Director Ann Gaudé said the preparations for the production have been intense but rewarding.

“It’s a big show and takes a lot of hard work, but these girls are willing to do the work,” she said.

But even as the dancers ready for the show, it’s really about one thing — fun.

“Our spring recital, that is more technical, but this show is about entertainment, us saying to the audience, ‘Let us entertain you,’” Gaudé said.

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Sela Roberts, 18, dances as one of Santa's friends during the rehearsal Wednesday night for the Middleton School of Dance's "T'was the Night Before Christmas" performance.

And that’s not lost on Kayla Wisner, 13, who portrays Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

“It is a really fun, because I get to dance with Santa,” she said.

The performance will also include a surprise from Santa, Gaudé said.

The doors for the show will open at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets will be available at the door and are $10 for adults and $5 for children.