EVENT — Welcome to the jungle
Cirque Dreams
Jungle Fantasy
Dec. 8 and 9
7:30 p.m.
N. Charleston Performing Arts Center
5001 Coliseum Dr.

You’ve probably heard of Cirque du Soleil, but what about Cirque Dreams? According to their website, Cirque Dreams is the first American company to produce European cirque-style tours, and they’re coming to town this weekend to wow Charleston audiences with a series of performances by acrobats, contortionists, aerialists, and more. Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy reinvents the circus experience with 90 minutes of amazing special effects, impressive choreography, and breathtaking costumes, all in a jungle-themed setting. Best of all, there are no annoying clowns with rubber horns and big, floppy shoes. For more info about the company and its performers, visit www.cirqueproductions.com. —Christy Robertson

EVENT — Shop like you’re Paris Hilton
Shopping With Friends 2006
Sat. Dec. 9
Kick-off party: Fri. Dec. 8, 5-8 p.m.
Saks Fifth Avenue
211 King St.
Brunch: Sat. Dec. 9, 9 a.m.-noon
Charleston Renaissance Hotel
86 Wentworth St.

Impossible as it may seem, Christmas is only three weeks away, and unless you’re one of those overachieving individuals who complete their shopping months before the holiday, you’re probably looking for a few gifts. If so, then grab your purse, wallet, or fanny pack and head to downtown Charleston this weekend for the Third Annual Shopping With Friends event to benefit Lowcountry AIDS Services. Saks Fifth Avenue hosts the opening festivities on Friday evening, providing food, wine, and gifts for holiday shoppers. On Saturday, stop by Renaissance Hotel for a full brunch complete with bloody Marys and mimosas, as well as complimentary massages, manicures, and eyebrow shapings. Participants will also have the opportunity to bid on five auction packages, including a New York fashion weekend and a shopping spree in Charleston. After the brunch, complete your holiday shopping at any of the Red Ribbon Retailers (visit the LAS website for a full list of this year’s participants) and earn bonus gifts for your purchases. Ten percent of every dollar spent goes directly to Lowcountry AIDS Services, which serves Tri-Country residents infected with HIV/AIDS, so grab those credit cards and charge, charge, charge for a good cause. —Christy Robertson

VISUAL ARTS — A tightwad’s treasures
The Little Things
Sat. Dec. 9
6-8 p.m.
Modernisme, The Gallery at Avondale
21 Magnolia Road

Are you one of those who always spends hours agonizing over the perfect presents for those special someones, only to have them shoved into a closet somewhere, never to see the light of day? Modernisme, Avondale Point’s new modern art gallery, offers a solution for those with tight pursestrings and a penchant for giving artistic gifts — a “small works” sale featuring over 100 affordably-priced pieces ranging from paintings to mixed-media works to photography, all created by Modernisme’s cadre of artists, including Toby Penney, Katie Leonard, Dorothy Netherland, Redux director Seth Curcio, and Modernisme owner Kristy Cifuentes. Expect to see plenty of color and vivacity throughout the works, and with a two-hour event, there’ll be plenty of time to visit one of the fine eating and drinking establishments in and around Avondale. —Sara Miller

DANCE — Dance, little sugarplums, dance!
Charleston Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker
Sat. Dec. 9, 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Sun. Dec. 10, 3 p.m.
Gaillard Auditorium
77 Calhoun St.
The Great Russian Nutcracker
Sun. Dec. 10
3 p.m., 7 p.m.
N. Charleston Performing Arts Center
5001 Coliseum Dr.

Hailed as a classic by audiences and groaned at by lifetime dancers, The Nutcracker, based on “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice,” a tale written in 1816 by German painter, writer, and composer E.T.A. Hoffman and set to music by Tchaikovsky, will grace Lowcountry stages in two productions this week, one local and one international. The Charleston Ballet Theatre presents the story of the little girl given the magical chestnut-chomping present complete with falling snow and elaborate costumes decorating their regular spate of highly-talented dancers and over 85 CBT students. The Great Russian Nutcracker, which features the dancers of the world-renowned Moscow Ballet in addition to plenty of local tots in small supporting roles, is currently on a tour through 70 cities across North America. The die-hard fans out there can easily attend both productions, but as a Charleston-based paper, we’re going to have to lean toward the CBT’s less-expensive, locally-cast show. Either way, dewy-eyed Christmas fans will have a magical experience. —Sara Miller

VISUAL ARTS — It’s not just the cats who are spraying around here
Project Aerosol
Opening Fri. Dec. 8, 6 p.m.
On view through Dec. 30
Redux Contemporary Art Center
136 St. Philip St.

Continuing with the Charleston art world’s omnipresent focus on graffiti this year, Redux hosts Project Aerosol, a two-person exhibition featuring Charleston street painter Sheepman (you may have seen his work behind the old Berle shopping center on James Island) and Baltimore large-format outdoor painter/muralist KEAR. The exhibit is intended to “challenge the limitation of aerosol as technique for painting,” and includes plenty of spray-paint esoterica spread throughout the roomy Redux Studios. In addition to wall and floor paintings, KEAR will be displaying his found object and steel sculptures, both artists will present large-scale canvases, and there will be a custom booth where both artists will hawk their wares. —Sara Miller

CONCERT MUSIC — If you want to sing out, sing out
Handel’s Messiah
$20, $15/advance, $5/students with valid ID
Thurs. Dec. 7, 8 p.m.
Summerall Chapel
171 Moultrie St.
Fri. Dec. 8, 8 p.m.
James Island Presbyterian Church
1632 Fort Johnson Road
Sun. Dec. 10, 3 p.m.
St. Theresa the Little Flower Catholic Church
11001 Dorchester Road

Open your heart as the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus and four guest soloists open their lungs to intone what is arguably the most famous refrain in all of classical music: the unstoppable “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” chorus of Handel’s Messiah. The CSO, conducted by Scott Terrell, will provide the instrumental accompaniment as soprano Adrianna Wyatt, mezzo-soprano Jami Tyzik, tenor Scott Scully, and baritone Ryan Taylor, along with the CSO Chorus, traipse across the Lowcountry for three shows — one downtown, one in James Island, and one in Summerville. Tickets can be purchased in advance through Ticketmaster or at the Gaillard Box Office (77 Calhoun St.), at the CSO’s website, or on the night of the show. —Sara Miller

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