Children hard at work learning moves for ‘The Picnic’

Published 12:16 am Tuesday, February 19, 2008

NATCHEZ — In the workout world Tae Bo and pilates may be the most popular exercise methods.

But for a group of five Natchez boys nothing can compete with “The Picnic.”

For the past few weeks, Bailey Downer, Evan Webber, Alex Miller, Kenneth Jordan and Bradley Jones have been getting their exercise by dancing.

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The four fifth-graders and one seventh-grader have been busy learning the steps to the Historic Natchez Pageant’s tableau called “The Picnic.”

A regular feature of the pageant, “The Picnic” is highlighted by a group of youngsters dancing the Virginia Reel.

The dance alone lasts about three or four minutes. But the one-hour practices leading up to the pageant have kept these boys on their toes.

“It’s tiring,” Miller said after catching a breather from Monday afternoon’s practice.

“It makes your feet hurt,” Webber said as he changed into his tennis shoes.

The whole group agreed that one hour of skipping, twirling and sliding was a more grueling workout than most basketball and football games.

“At least in football you get to rest,” Webber said.

Dance instructor Cheryl Morace said the one hour of dance can be a workout but that the boys don’t seem to mind.

“They love it,” Morace said. “They are really practicing very hard.”

In fact, they practiced so hard Monday afternoon that the five boys fell to floor in unison when they found time for a momentary break.

Their girl partners, on the other hand, stood in place and shook their heads as the boys breathed heavily and sighed.

Asked if they liked the dance, the boys responded with complete silence.

“The boys can’t say they like to dance, but they do,” one of the mothers said from the audience. “They have to say their mothers make them do it.”

Even though the boys wouldn’t admit to enjoying dancing, they did admit there were some good things about it.

“It gets you in shape,” Miller said.

“You do get to meet the girls,” Jones said.

Jones also said he was watching the movie “The Buccaneer” on television that featured the same dance that they he and his friends will be performing in the pageant.

“It’s history,” Jones said.