‘Night Before Christmas’ ballet set tonight

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

NATCHEZ — T’was the night of the ballet, which features a Christmas mouse, that dancers and the director hoped to see a full house.

And an auditorium full of smiling faces is just what Middleton School of Dance students and director Ann Gaude’ hope to see tonight.

Taking their marks at 7 p.m., students will kick off the school’s fourth annual performance of “T’was the Night Before Christmas” at the Natchez City Auditorium.

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Dancers ages 5 to 18 have been preparing for approximately four months for tonight’s performance.

Cathedral senior Anna Bet Roberts, 18, will don a red nose as she dances the part of Rudolph.

“I’ve danced for about eight or nine years,” Roberts said. “I’m kind of nervous because this is the first time I’ve ever had a lead. I’m just hoping I don’t mess up.”

Roberts will take on not only a lead role, but also perform as a snowflake and a Christmas tree in the play based on the holiday classic, but with a twist.

While the premise of the ballet never changes, Gaude’ said patron audience members receive a surprise every year.

“One of the fun parts (of directing this ballet) is adding something to the show every year and adding the audience into the fun of the program,” Gaude’ said.

“This year, we have a couple of new things in the show that are surprises,” she added.

“Trinity senior Abigail McCary, 18, has danced in all four Christmas performances, and said she has a fun part to play as her lead role.

“I’m a Christmas tree, a snowflake and a Spanish dancer — the saucy part,” McCary said.

“(This performance) is fun. It’s different from our regular Spring performance because of the Christmas theme. It just gets everyone in the mood for Christmas time.”

Both dancers said tonight would not only hold Christmas cheer, but a little bit of sadness, too, since it marks their last Christmas performance.

“It’s sad. My grandparents love to come watch me dance, and they are going to be really upset (this is the last Christmas performance.)”

Cathedral student Cela Roberts, 15, has danced alongside her sister, Anna Bet, in all four Christmas performances and said not having her sister to dance with next year will be strange.

“I don’t know if she feels the same way, but I’m going to miss her,” Cela Roberts said.

Like her sister, Cela has danced for approximately half of her life, and will take on the roles of several characters tonight.

“It’s a lot of fun. You never know what part you’re going to get,” Cela said. “(This year,) I’m a morning girl, a snowflake and a reindeer.”

Fifteen-year-old Cathedral student Abby Dillard has danced the majority of her life and can be seen as a snowflake tonight on the auditorium’s stage.

Dillard said even though juggling rehearsal and school can get hectic, dancing in the performance reminds her how thankful she is to be a performer.

“Sometimes it gets really stressful. It just seems like everything crashes down on you at once,” Dillard said. “The performance makes me thankful for all the things I get. There are so many little girls that never get to take ballet.”

For younger dancers, leads aren’t an option, but fun is.

Dancing as elves, snow princesses and toys, fourth-grade dancers from around the county get to interact with the audience in a major way.

Christmas mouse Abigail Hand, 9, said she was excited about her role because she gets to do something other dancers to get to do on stage — eat.

“I get to eat a real oatmeal cookie,” Hand said.

Cathedral dancer Bailey Thompson, 10, said after dancing for approximately six years, her favorite thing about performing in plays like the one tonight is showcasing what she’s learning in classes.

“I get to be in front of all these people in the audience and dance for them and show them how hard I’ve been working,” Thompson said.