Sugar plum fairies, mice spotted in town

Published 12:16 am Sunday, November 23, 2008

NATCHEZ — A strange sight at The Columns would have greeted the casual passerby Saturday afternoon — girls in nightgowns, fairies, Arabian dancers and a gigantic rodent.

That gathering, which included a host of other characters, made perfect sense in its context, however — it was the Natchez Ballet Academy’s Nutcracker mother-daughter tea.

This is the fifth year for the tea, in which attendees were served treats and sweets associated with the Nutcracker tale while cast members in costume read the story of the Nutcracker to the children present.

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Annual Nutcracker tea gives children the opportunity to meet dancers from Natchez ballet. Click here for slideshow

“We do this so the children can meet the cast and feel up close and personal with the cast,” Nutcracker director Mignon Reid said. “It lets them feel like they are more a part of the Nutcracker than just audience.”

And that is why Debra Burnham went to the reading with two younger family members.

“When a child comes in here and hears the story, when they see the ballet it really makes it come alive,” she said.

Before the reading, the Natchez High School Chamber Music ensemble — accompanied by Darlene McCune on the keyboard — filled the room with an ethereal vocal performance, and children munched on peppermints, chocolate mice and gingerbread men.

One personality at the tea that was hard to miss was the Mouse King.

In the ballet, the Mouse King leads an armed conflict against a group of toy soldiers, but Saturday he was the interest of many small children, who either leered at him cautiously or walked right up and tweaked his gigantic nose.

Underneath the mesh rodent head was Anthony Neumann.

“It’s great to see the kids frolic and get ready for the Christmas spirit,” he said. “I think it’s awesome for the little ones.”

The ballet opened Thursday, and there will be a performance at 2 p.m. today at the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center on Homochitto Street. Tickets are $10.