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See & Do 

The Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus is back in town. In the 19th century, P.T. Barnum started the American tradition of traveling circuses going town to town, dazzling the locals with exotic animals, freak shows, acrobats and tightrope walkers. Over time, circuses lost the freaks to the carnies, clowns climbed onboard, the other attractions grew more spectacular, and more and more people flocked to them. These days a three-ring circus with all the bells and whistles is a good match, glitzwise, for even the most imaginative film or stage production. In recent years, animal rights activists have raised a stink over the treatment of all those elephants and tigers. We're doubtful that the performing animals you see are the eager, happy entertainers the circus claims they are, but at the same time, activists have yet to produce convincing evidence that Ringling's animals are being mistreated. This debate will no doubt go on for some time, but meanwhile, if it's your cup of tea, The Greatest Show On Earth is at the Charlotte Coliseum today through Sunday. The show starts tonight at 7:30pm; Thursday and Friday at 10:30am and 7:30pm; Saturday at 11:30am and 3:30pm; and Sunday at 11:30am, 3:30pm and 7:30pm. Tickets range from $11 to $43. Call Ticketmaster at 704-522-6500. (Grooms)

After taking their third CL Company of the Year title in five years, Actor's Theatre of Charlotte brings us Lobby Hero, one of off-Broadway's most acclaimed comedies of recent years. Kenneth Lonergan's script revolves around a security guard in a Manhattan high-rise who is suddenly plunged into a moral dilemma when his boss's brother is involved in a brutal crime. Is covering for the guy the right thing to do? Newly crowned Theaterperson of the Year, Lon Bumgarner, directs Mark Scarboro (The Santaland Diaries) in the title role. The new Actor's Theatre facility at 650 Stonewall Street -- a stone's throw from the I-277 innerbelt -- is already garnering rave reviews. And in case you haven't noticed, while Charlotte Rep has cut back to dinky little 2-1/2-week runs, ATC initiated four-week runs with Bat Boy and continues moving full steam ahead. Call 704-342-2251 through March 27 and experience the newly renovated 199-seat theater yourself. (Tannenbaum)

If you were present at Spirit Square in January for the fascinating Dance Portraits love-in with New York Post dance aficionado Clive Barnes, you already know that Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride are ideally suited to stage A Balanchine Centennial Celebration. NC Dance Theatre's power couple were once two of George Balanchine's most dazzling principals when the ballet master was revolutionizing modern dance. Showcasing both the varied talents of the NCDT corps and the broad range of Balanchine's work, the celebration will present Act 1 of the full-length A Midsummer Night's Dream, followed by Stars and Stripes and Agon. Associate artistic director McBride strides to the forefront to restage the masterworks -- all of which figured in her illustrious career with New York City Ballet. The music, played live by Charlotte Symphony with back-up from their venerable Oratorio Singers, is a feast in itself, ranging from Mendelssohn to Sousa to Stravinsky. Through March 6 at Belk Theater. Call 704-372-1000. (Tannenbaum)

FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley garnered international attention when she explained how the FBI had ignored intelligence information prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks. She's the featured speaker at the Mecklenburg Bar Association's Law & Society luncheon at 12noon at the Hilton on East 3rd Street. Rowley will speak on "Balancing Civil Liberties with the Need for Effective Investigation." The public is invited and urged to attend. Cost for the luncheon is $25; for reservations, call 704-375-8624 or go to (Grooms)

The artform of belly dancing -- which some believe dates back to Egyptian cultures of the 14th century -- has been growing in popularity in the Charlotte area, with a number of schools opening over the past several years. Now The Bellydance Superstars and the Desert Roses, part of a nationwide 55-city tour, is making a stop here. The tour features some of the most noted bellydancers in the country, including Charlotte's own Yasmine, who runs a local bellydancing school. Yasmine is part of a diverse community who has taken up the centuries-old artform as a way to get a good workout, explore a fun new hobby, or simply enjoy a little playful fantasy. Expect lots of exotic and colorful costumes and flowing, sensual movements -- all of which have been influenced over the centuries by such countries as Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Morocco -- when the dancers shake it like a Polaroid picture. The performance will take place at The Great Aunt Stella Center at 8pm. Doors open at 7pm. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door. For tickets or to get more information, call 704-944-6000. (Boykin)

Classical music lovers can take a headlong leap into the unknown as Charlotte Civic Orchestra presents Hovhaness' Mysterious Mountain at First United Methodist Church beginning at 7:30pm. When he died in 2000, Alan Hovhaness left an awesome legacy of 67 symphonies. Part of Mysterious Mountain, or Symphony #2, came to him in a dream as he was fulfilling a commission by Leopold Stokowski, who premiered the work at his debut with the Houston Symphony in 1955. Hovhaness' music is spiritual, tinged with Eastern influences, and often preoccupied with great American mountains. But the origin of the title for #2, an unpretentious 20 minutes long, isn't lofty at all. "Give the dog a name," Stokowski told Hovhaness. Civic's new maestro, Alexander Kordzaia, conducts an adventurous program, starting with Paliashvili's "Overture to Daisi" before reveling in Ippolotov-Ivanov's once-popular Caucasian Sketches. Tickets at the door or call 704-344-0098. (Tannenbaum)

The VantagePoint series at the Mint Museum of Art continues today with the opening of Julie Heffernan: Interior Transformations. Heffernan's fairytale-like "self-portraits" resemble her in appearance but serve more as a mechanism to challenge the conventional perception of women in Western society. Seven of her paintings will be on display, today through Sept. 5. Heffernan will discuss her ornate interiors and fantastical images and the meanings behind them in a lecture at the Mint on March 15. The Museum is located at 2730 Randolph Road. Admission is $6 adults, $5 seniors, $3 students and free ages 5 and under. Call 704-337-2000 for details. (Grossman)

She's the reigning Queen of female singer-songwriters, renowned for ability to write to the heart of the matters of the heart. "She" is three-time Grammy Award winner Lucinda Williams, and she's been inspiring fans and other singer-songwriters for a quarter-century now. As such, the tickets for this show at the Visulite were snapped up weeks ago. But then there are always scalpers -- start the bidding at $28, which is what the tickets went for initially. Of course you didn't hear it here. Openers The Bottle Rockets, from Festus, MO, hit the stage at 9pm. You can call 704-358-9200 if you have more questions, but begging won't do you any good. (Schacht)

The premise of Primus is simple. Les Claypool's bass does the talking -- and the bending, popping, booming and screaming -- while the guitarist and drummer weave in and out of the thick lines completing the post-punk, funk, and rock maelstrom. No Primus tune excludes the bass or Claypool's operatic vocals and obtuse lyrics. The group has been touring since last fall, after they returned from a 5-year "indefinite" hiatus. Sadly, there's no new record since 1999's Antipop, but you can catch the madness on March 9 at Grady Cole Center, 7:30pm. Tickets are $30 for general admission. Details 704-522-6500 or (Shukla)

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