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It's a Small World 

East meets west at the City Museum, and entertainment and cultural exchanges are the happy results

As the world shrinks as the result of modern-day technology and the rise of a global economy, more cultures are coming into close contact with one another. While this has brought about some major cultural clashes, it also has positive effects: Different cultures and societies are no longer as isolated, so new ideas can spread faster and mix more freely. Suddenly that neighbor across the globe is as close as the neighbor across town -- or next door. This forces people to reevaluate their own ideas and prejudices, to consider the merits of other cultures, perhaps even to incorporate others' values as their own, thereby enriching their lives.

The "shrinking" phenomenon often manifests itself earliest in the realm of the performing arts -- Punjabi MC, anyone? Closer to home, we have the Circus Day Foundation. Its new production, Far East Meets Midwest, unites Asian and Midwestern arts and artists to create a hybrid show with elements of both cultures. Jessica Hentoff, spokesperson for the foundation, explains: "There are a lot of unique collaborations; for example, the St. Louis Arches and the St. Louis Osuwa Taiko Drummers are doing an act together where the Taikos tumble and the Arches drum. There's a triple trapeze act being accompanied by a zheng, a Chinese harp. And martial artists from Three Rivers Aikido perform to a live Persian sitar player." Hentoff says the show will also feature "Chinese lions dancing on giant balls" (the big-headed costumed dancers from Chinese parades, not actual lions), and the St. Louis Arches will be performing four classic Chinese circus acts: "Chinese hoop diving, a Chinese vertical pole act, a group bicycling act and two clowns -- the Brothers Kaputnik."

There will be two identical shows on the third floor of the City Museum (701 North 15th Street, 314-231-2489) on Saturday, February 28, at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. "Bring the kids to the 4 o'clock and if you're on a date, come to the 8 o'clock," Hentoff advises. Come a little early (around 6 p.m.) to the second show, and you can enjoy a buffet dinner of Chinese and Midwestern food (hot dogs and egg rolls are a knockout combination), as well as a silent auction of goodies such as hotel stays, tickets to sporting and theater events and even a baseball autographed by Stan Musial.

As explained in its mission statement, the Circus Day Foundation "teaches the art of life through circus education" to people from all walks of life, helping them "defy gravity, soar with confidence and leap over social barriers all at the same time." The foundation prides itself on bringing "multicultural organizations, teams and individuals together" and for keeping the "circus as a performing art alive for the whole St. Louis metro area." Proceeds from the performances, dinner and auction will go toward the Circus Day Foundation and its ongoing mission.

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