Surprises fill arts season

When you hear a “Pop!”, you know you're in for a surprise. That's why I like the “Pop Goes the Season” cover on this year's season preview. It's a reference to the Andy Warhol pop art exhibit coming to the Mint in October. But it has a double meaning: The events in store this season might surprise you.

If you're new to the arts scene, let me share my favorite surprises in each of the areas we cover:

Dance: Dance fan who like the steamy duets on “So You Think You Can Dance,” will love North Carolina Dance Theatre's annual Innovative Works program. No pink tutus here. The music rocks. The moves are athletic and often sensual. In fact, Innovative Works' choreographer Dwight Rhoden created a passionate segment for TV's SYTYCD this summer. You can check out his work on YouTube. Or you can see it up close at the intimate Booth Playhouse in November.

Books: When's Charlotte's Novello Festival was created 18 years ago, it quickly became a model for other libraries, and has always brought publishing's giants to our city. This year it's Khaled Hosseini (“A Thousand Splendid Suns”). In years past, it's been John Grisham and Tom Clancy. The surprise? These writers are just as entertaining speaking as they are on paper. For as little as $15.

Music: Savvy uptown workers already know this gem: The first Tuesday of each month, chamber musicians play a free lunchtime concert at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. It's an amazing island of sanity in the middle of our too-stressful work lives. The Suits pack the pews. This year the name changes from Chamber Music at St. Peter's to Charlotte Chamber Music, and the venue changes, too. Look for the schedule under the new name in our Music section.

Visual Arts: One of the finest corporate art collections in the world is owned by Bank of America – thousands of pieces with names including Milton Avery, Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella, even Norman Rockwell. The bank not only lends its artwork to the chieftains' offices, it also puts it on view across the country, including Bank of America Gallery at the Hearst Center. Look for American Impressionists in October. (Tip for travelers: A major exhibit of BofA holdings is currently on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia through Sept. 21.)

Theater: Actor's Theatre of Charlotte, a semiprofessional troupe that produces edgy new plays, makes it sinfully easy to show up: You don't dress up. You don't pay for parking (the lot is right next to the building). You can usually grab a ticket at the door. It's one of the easiest and best theater tickets in town.

So, if you are ready to expand your artistic horizons, pop into any of these events.

Or check out the rest of this section for even more surprises.

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