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Center Stage: What's Hot in the Midlands

FRIDAY, Oct. 2

Columbia City Ballet will launch its 2009-2010 season with the third annual "Dancing Under the Stars" fundraising gala at 7:30 p.m. at the Arcade Mall on Main Street.

The gala, Carnevale di Venezia, will feature custom Venetian masks, Villa Tronco's Italian cuisine and red carpet photos. Costumes are encouraged, and black tie is optional.

Company dancers will perform vignettes throughout the evening, and Claude Buckley will paint live during the event. There will also be fire performers, modern Italian dance music mixed by DJ Deft Key and a silent auction, with items including point shoes painted by local artists.

Tickets cost $75 or $100, which includes a mask. Tickets can be purchased online at www.brownpapertickets.com. For more information, call (803) 799-7605 or visit www.columbiacityballet.com.

"The Big Read: Stark Raven Mad," the monthlong salute to writer Edgar Allan Poe, officially gets started Friday with poet Meg Kearney at the Columbia Museum of Art.

Kearney is the director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at Pine Manor College in Massachusetts. Mass.

She will read from her work, including "An Unkindness of Ravens," and she will discuss selections from The Big Read's featured book, "Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe."

There are nearly 30 Big Read events, including readings of Poe's work, screenings of horror films, lectures and performances.

Kearney's event, which is free, begins at 6:30 p.m. All those in attendance will get a copy of the featured book. The museum is at Main and Hampton streets. Information on The Big Read: artsinstitute.sc.edu.

SATURDAY, Oct. 3

ZOOfari, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden's annual fundraising event, is set to go from coast to coast. Really. The theme this year is "A Toast to the Coast," and four areas of the park will be tied to a different region, each with its own signature cocktail.

The regions: The Palmetto Plaza will turn into the Low Country, where everything about South Carolina will be celebrated, including beach music as the Fabulous Kays will perform; Safari Camp will become the Baja peninsula, and you can expect Mexican cuisine and flair; Carousel Plaza will change into the Gulf Coast, complete will Cajun flavors and the island sounds of the Florida Keys; and the Saluda River Bridge will shift into the Pacific Northwest.

The highlight of ZOOfari is the auction. The auctioneer rattles of numbers and bids at a rapid pace. Items up for bid include: an African safari at the zoo; an after-hours birthday party for children; a penguin encounter; and a five-course dinner and wine tasting at the zoo's botanical garden.

The zoo is at 500 Wildlife Parkway. $75 for members, $85 for nonmembers; (803) 779-8717

FRIDAY AND SATURDAY

The USC Dance Company will open its season Friday and Saturday at Koger Center. At 7:30 p.m. both nights, the company will perform "On The Edge: Classics to Contemporary." The entire second act will feature the romantic ballet "Giselle," staged by artist-in-residence Kyra Strasberg. The performance will also feature an original contemporary work from choreographer Alan Hineline, and USC Dance instructor Tanya Wideman-Davis will dance an original contemporary piece.

The Koger Center is at 1051 Greene St. $11 to $17; (803) 251-2222

SATURDAY AND SUNDAY

If you're a firefighter with kids, you're in luck: In honor of Firefighter Appreciation Week, EdVenture, the children's museum, is offering firefighters and up to four family members free admission. All you have to do is present your station ID or SCFA membership card.

EdVenture isn't just free for firefighters this weekend, as Bank of America cardholders can waive the admission fee through the bank's "Museums on Us" program. EdVenture is the only museum in the state participating.

EdVenture is located at 211 Gervais St. (803) 779-3100

SUNDAY, Oct. 4

The Carolina Jazz Society will play a concert at the Capital Senior Center. Pete Neighbor, a respected clarinetist who has been gigging with Skipp Pearson of late, is the featured performer. This jazz show isn't just for folks of a certain age, as jazz music is ageless.

The concert is from 2:30 to 5 p.m. The Capital Senior Center is at 1650 Park Circle. $8 for adults and free to students 18 and younger; (803) 432-1504

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 7

Do you remember the band Was (Not Was)? No. Well, how about its hit, "Everybody Walk the Dinosaur," with the lyrics, "Open the door, get on the floor / Everybody walk the dinosaur"?

That song comes to mind when thinking about "Walking With Dinosaurs," the production that brings the pre-historic animals back to life. It will be at the Colonial Life Arena Oct. 7 to 11. More than a dozen life-size dinosaurs will roam the arena. Don't worry, they won't eat you. But the roars will certainly make your spine tingle.

I wonder if "Everybody Walk the Dinosaur" will be played at the arena.

The arena is at 801 Lincoln St. $19.50 to $59.50; (866) 472-8499 or www.coloniallifearena.com

The United States Air Force Band and Singing Sergeants will perform at the Koger Center at 7 p.m.

The Airmen will perform songs that will strike a patriotic match in all in attendance.

The Koger Center is at 1051 Greene St. Free.

- Otis R. Taylor Jr.

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