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Come Mardi Gras time, you're probably going to stumble down to Soulard, drink a hurricane or five, and do things for beads that you normally wouldn't do for cash money. And you know what? That's OK. But why not class up your partying a smidge by also attending Grupo Atlantico's celebration of Carnival? Like Mardi Gras, Carnival is a grand festival that allows everyone to let loose before the somber Lenten season begins (or, depending on your religious inclinations, before the crushing hangover begins). Grupo Atlantico, a local organization that educates St. Louisans about Caribbean culture in the Americas, honors the Carnival tradition of Barranquilla, Colombia, through art. You can help get the party started Friday, January 14, at The Heights Community Center (8001 Dale Avenue, Richmond Heights). Partake of wine and cheese from 6 to 8 p.m. while enjoying photographs of traditional Carnival garb by Biljana Erdeg and Carnival-inspired paintings by Colombian-born artist Margarita Sierra. The free event marks the beginning of Grupo Atlantico's six-week celebration of Carnival (make sure to check out the Parade of Carnival Costumes on January 29 and the Carnival dances and children's workshops on February 26). And don't worry, Drunky McSlosh, there's hardly any conflict with the Soulard parties. It's a win-win situation! For more information call 314-362-8425 or e-mail -- Brooke Foster

Art Explained
And enjoyed

TUES 1/18

Hearing an artist speak about her work is like getting new windshield wipers. Sure, you could see most of what was going on with the bad wipers, but the new ones allow you to see so much better. See Laylah Ali: Paintings and Drawings more clearly after attending the artist's upcoming lecture at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or Perhaps the Wash. U. grad will speak about the many appendages of the sometimes-masked figures that make up much of her current show. Maybe not. Either way, you'll have a little more insight into Ali's work after attending the free talk at 7 p.m. (the cash bar opens at 6 p.m.). -- Alison Sieloff

Thursday Night Fever
Dancing the night away

Everyone knows that a first date is probably the most awkward single event a human can endure. No matter what, you're nervous about what to wear, who should pay and, most importantly, what to do. The dinner-and-drinks date seems so tired, so 2004. What you need is a new idea, something you and your date will always remember. Why don't you try the LGBT dance class offered at the Mahler Ballroom (4915 Washington Boulevard; e-mail mkelenadance@hotmail .com for more information)? For $10 per person, dance instructor Elena Lyashenko will help you and your date learn the basics of Latin, ballroom and swing dancing this and every Thursday at 7 p.m. Will you know what you're doing? No. Will you be a bit clumsy at first? Sure. But here's the good news: Chances are your date doesn't know how to do these dances either, and that will make breaking the ice with him or her that much easier -- and more fun. The classes are open to singles, too, so no partner, no problem. -- Alison Sieloff

Driving Days

Kashmir means many things to many people. To some, it is a disputed region; to others, it's a bitchin' Led Zeppelin song. And yet to car enthusiasts, "Kashmir" is a 1952 Cadillac roadster (yet another weird Zepp-Caddy link). See Rick Dore's prized, magazine-cover-worthy car among other great rides at the annual World of Wheels car show Friday through Sunday (January 14 through 16) at America's Center (Broadway and Washington Avenue). Admission is $5 to $13; visit for times. -- Alison Sieloff

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