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Dallas Morning News....


CHARLESTON, S.C. - This spring you can visit one of the South's most historic cities and watch a ballet under a 1,400-year-old live oak tree. Or maybe you'd rather flash back to the 1980s, with a retro dance party.

It's all part of Piccolo Spoleto, an offshoot of the ‘parent’ Spoleto Festival USA, one of the nation's top cultural festivals. The parental relationship is appropriate: Many of Piccolo Spoleto’s program offerings focus on kids--and kids at heart.

Like its parent, Piccolo Spoleto features visual arts exhibitions, music of all types, dance, theatre, readings, film, ethnic cultural presentations, and crafts. Both festivals are May 25 through June 11.

However, along with its younger target audience, Piccolo Spoleto differs in three other areas: More than half of Piccolo Spoleto’s events are admission-free, many events are outdoors and, while Spoleto Festival USA is international in style, Piccolo Spoleto focuses on local and regional artists, writers, and performers.

With hundreds of events big and small, Piccolo highlights this year include: Sunset Serenade by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra on the steps of the U.S. Customs House and An Elegant Evening of Rachmaninoff, featuring many local musicians. Piccolo Spoleto events that aren’t free have moderate ticket prices (for instance, the Rachmaninoff event is $10).

The big daddy, Spoleto Festival USA, is bigger than ever this year, with almost 150 cultural events and 17 countries represented. Two highlights include the world premiere of the play Geisha by groundbreaking Asian director Ong Keng Sen and the American debut of Britain’s famed Kneehigh Theatre.

Piccolo Spoleto is organized by the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs.

Information: www.piccolospoleto.com. Spoleto Festival USA: www.spoletousa.org. Charleston travel information: www.charlestoncvb.com.