CHRISTMAS will come early for a youthful group of dancers set to sample the magic of a professional pantomime from the stage.

Youngsters from the Cecilia Dance Centre in Malvern will be providing supporting roles throughout Malvern Theatre's forthcoming festive panto, Cinderella.

The dancers, all aged between seven and 12 years old, have learnt the secrets of graceful movement and co-ordination under the watchful eye of Pat Stewart, principal at Cecilia Hall Dance Centre.

She is no stranger to supplying talented dancers for big productions, having sent several pupils to help Malvern Theatre Players' production of Aladdin in 1999.

"They really enjoyed it last time," she said. "They wanted it to go on forever."

The young stars will not receive payment for their performances, but the prospect of starring under the spotlights was enough to have her pupils clamouring to be involved when production company UK Productions held auditions for the roles at the beginning of term.

"There were a few who were disappointed," she said. "But it wasn't necessarily that they weren't good enough, they have to be of a certain size for each part and they have to be able to fill in for each other if they fall ill on the night."

Two groups of eight children will share the 43 performances between them in what looks to be a hectic schedule throughout December and early January.

They will not have much time to rehearse or get used to the costumes, either, their first rehearsal is two weeks before the performance, but Miss Stewart is confident her charges will acquit themselves well, having seen their skills progress in after-school classes.

"Some of them have been dancing since the age of three," she said.

"There are one or two who want to go on and do it professionally, but for most of them it is just great experience."

They will be starring alongside Marti Webb and Chris Jarvis, children's TV presenter on BBC and ITV, as well as Nicholas Smith (Mr Rumbold from Are You Being Served?) and Sophia Thierens.

Tickets for the show, which runs from December 12 to January 5, are available from box office on 01684 892277.