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Ring Around Grand Center

The return of Circus Flora

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Circuses named for elephants don't forget their stunts, and they keep a trunk full of surprises stored to throw into the ring. This year's Circus Flora features the new can't-miss attraction of air conditioning under the big top, as well as the debut of the Flying Cortes, a world-renowned four-person trapeze act.

The one-ring circus, which takes it name from Flora, an orphaned baby elephant rescued from starvation by company co-founder Ivor David Balding, sports an all-new production for 2003 titled "Da Capo."

"Da Capo," meaning "from the top" in Italian, showcases two top-billed acts in addition to the Flying Cortes: the Flying Wallendas high-wire act and the Dzhigit Riders Cossack riding act, both of which longtime Circus Flora watchers will remember well.

It all takes place June 12-29 at Grand Center, at the corner of Grand Boulevard and Samuel Shepard Drive, in the shadow of the hulking shoulders of Powell Symphony Hall.

Despite the program's panache, it's fortunate that Circus Flora doesn't have a television contract. You've got to see this live: the clowns, the jugglers, the seven-person high-wire pyramid performed by the Flying Wallendas.

And that pyramid, Balding reassures us, is nothing to peek through your fingers at.

"It's not scary," he says. "It's just breathtaking, unbelievably beautiful. Once you've seen a performance this focused, you'll never want to go back to a sports arena again. Everybody is within 40 feet of the performance. You can see the Flying Cortes sweating. You can hear the Flying Wallendas breathing. And we have three acts in this one show that could close any circus in the world."

Want to run away and see Circus Flora? Performances during the three-week run are 7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $10-$25, and you can get them by calling the Circus Flora box office at 314-531-6800 or MetroTix at 314-534-1111. -- Thomas R. Raber

The Kids Are Alright
Dave Simon's rock & roll high school

SAT 6/14

Can rock & roll be taught? Dave Simon thinks so. The headmaster of the Dave Simon Rock School takes a group of raw kids ages five through eighteen and teaches them the ABC's of rock's 1-2-3-4 through one-on-one instrument instruction and by exposing them to the works of bands such as the Beatles and the Clash because "the Beatles are to rock what Beethoven is to classical," Simon says. At the end of the semester, Simon's students take their skills to the stage of the McMurray Music Performance Center (10201 Page Avenue). At 3 p.m., the kids go for broke in a free "50 Years of Rock" performance, which includes early rhythm & blues, modern rock and a little hip-hop. Call 314-517-2144 for more info, or to sign up for next semester. -- Paul Friswold

Take Notes

When the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra musicians head west to the Innsbrook Conference and Resort to teach a bunch of area kids about hot licks and cold rosin, everybody benefits. The Innsbrook Institute Music School and Festival means several weeks of nightly classical concerts by students, and the concurrent Artists' Voice Series allows those SLSO performers to give nightly (8 p.m., $12) chamber-group concerts (through Sunday, June 15). At the Artists' Voice shows, such musicians as violinist Amy Oshiro, chat between pieces about their approaches to the music. Innsbrook is in Wright City, Missouri, five miles south of I-70 on Highway F, about 45 minutes from St. Louis (636-928-3366, ext. 180, -- Byron Kerman

Feel Good 'Bout Feelin' Bad

FRI 6/13

Your baby left you; you stubbed your toe; your boss fired you; you burnt your dinner; your landlord threw your broke ass out: These are all good reasons to listen to the blues -- and we all get the blues. The folks at St. Louis County Parks knows this, and that's why they're bringing back the Blues on the Mississippi concerts at Jefferson Barracks Park (533 Grant Road). Former Rod Stewart guitarist Billy Peek kicks off the series at 8 p.m. Friday with his distinctive blues-rock stylings. Admission is $8 for ages twelve and older (parking is free), you can bring your own folding chairs or blankets and the park will have concessions for sale. Call 314-416-4374 for more info. -- Guy Gray

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