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Dancers set to perform ‘T’was the Night Before Christmas’

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Spanish dancer Miranda Allen, 15,  rehearses for the production, which begins at 7 p.m. today. Tickets are $10 at the door.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Spanish dancer Miranda Allen, 15, rehearses for the production, which begins at 7 p.m. today. Tickets are $10 at the door.

NATCHEZ — Everywhere else in the world, the night before Christmas is Dec. 24.

But in Natchez, it’s tonight.

The Middleton School of Dance will present its annual, one-night-only performance of “T’was the Night Before Christmas.” The show opens at 7 p.m. at the Natchez City Auditorium and has a cast of approximately 100 ranging in age from 4 to 17.

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Vivian Tran, 10, left, and Faith Anne Brown, 11, rehearse Wednesday for the Middleton School of Dance’s production of “T’was the Night Before Christmas” at the Natchez City Auditorium.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Vivian Tran, 10, left, and Faith Anne Brown, 11, rehearse Wednesday for the Middleton School of Dance’s production of “T’was the Night Before Christmas” at the Natchez City Auditorium.

“We do one show; we really like for everybody to come that one night,” Director Ann Gaudé said. “The children enjoy coming and dancing for a full house.

“It is very entertaining for all ages, and some of our best praise comes from the daddies and grandpas who come — it puts everybody in the Christmas spirit.”

The ballet opens with two young girls — portrayed by Faith Anne Brown and Vivian Tran — who wrap presents on Christmas Eve. Just as the girls fall asleep, the toys spring to life.

Candy canes, sugarplums and fairies dance through the scene. Bakers make gingerbread men who prance across the stage. Santa, his elves and their nemesis — the Grinch — all make an appearance.

“It’s not really like Christmas is for me, at all,” Brown said.

And Samantha Ashley — who as a Raggedy Ann doll pops out of a Christmas present — said she understands why, if toys were alive, they would dance when free of the box.

“It gets hot in the box,” she said.

In one scene, Santa’s elves have to fight the Grinch to keep her from stealing Christmas. The Grinch is ultimately changed into a positive Christmas spirit, and Lyden Bland said if she was an Elf and had to do it in real life, she’d be up to the task.

“I’d be scared, but I’d eat candy and try to get Christmas back,” she said.

Rehearsal for the show began in August, and Gaudé said it was a lot of work for the girls but worth it.

“Everybody is wanting to know what part they are going to get, what ages are going to get,” she said.

“The ballet has a lot of acting that goes with it, so the children have to learn not only to dance but how to do the acting parts as well.”

A lot of the dancers will interact with the audience during the show, Gaudé said.

“If you sit in certain parts of the auditorium, snow will fall on you, and Santa throws out surprises to the audience,” she said.

Tickets are $10 at the door.