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Circus Flora

Circus Flora

Circus Flora is a longstanding tradition for many St. Louisans and is back in action this month for its 33rd season. This year’s show is bringing audiences to an unlikely place for an adventure – a grocery store. Schnucks, to be exact. 

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jeremy D. Goodwin talked about how “The Caper in Aisle 6” takes a usually mundane trip to the store and turns it into an exciting visual performance for circusgoers. 

Cuzin Grumpy's Pork Chop Revue is among the new acts featured in Circus Flora's 2018 season.
Circus Flora

For more than 30 years, Circus Flora, a one-ring circus that makes St. Louis its home, has offered a circus show that’s best described as live theater. It’s an intimate setting that is in stark contrast to the images some people might conjure of the large Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus which performed for the last time 10 months ago.

Two things are significantly different about this year’s Circus Flora season.

Circus Flora executive director Larry Mabrey talked about the circus' upcoming changes.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ hometown circus is set to move prior to its upcoming season – but only a half block away. Previously, the circus took place on the lot next to Powell Hall. But last year, Circus Flora partnered with the Kranzberg Arts Foundation to help develop a permanent site for the circus.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about the changes to Circus Flora, including the new location and its new season dates for 2018. Joining him for the discussion was Circus Flora executive director Larry Mabrey.

Yo-Yo the Narrator, performed by Cecil MacKinnon, is a mainstay at Circus Flora.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

After a nearly 150 year run, the famed Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performed its final show on Sunday in New York.

Here in St. Louis, circus performers were watching a live video stream of the event in a tent of their own.

“It was wonderfully heartfelt, some of the things the performers said, especially about the role of animals in people’s lives,” said Cecil MacKinnon, Circus Flora’s theater director, who joined St. Louis on the Air contributor Steve Potter on Thursday.

Courtesy Circus Flora

Circus Flora, St. Louis’ most famous big top show, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this summer. The theme? “Pastime,” which hearkens back to the “golden age” of baseball. Performances start on June 2 and go through July 3 this year.

One of Mayya Panfilova cats astound every cat person.
Donna Korando | St. Louis Public Radio

Yo-Yo has a new pair of shoes.

For just shy of 30 years, when Yo-Yo the Narrator stepped balletically into the center of the ring of our city’s own Circus Flora, she was shod in court shoes with a medium heel, rather fancy in the footwear world, shoes in keeping with her studied gestures and attitudes.

On opening night at the circus on Friday, her shoes were quite different, low to the ground, decidedly sensible, nondescript. And intended or not, these new shoes are signifiers.

Courtesy Circus Flora

On May 29, Circus Flora returns to “The Big Top” in Grand Center to open its 29th season with “One Summer on Second Street.” This season features new talent, including an act performed by domestic house cats, as well as familiar acts such as the Flying Wallendas and the St. Louis Arches from Circus Harmony.

Steve Truesdell

There is a big-man-size hole in the heart of St. Louis’ Circus Flora, a vacancy left by the death of Ivor David Balding last month at 75. Balding was the founder, the sustenance and the animating spirit of the company. But this breach is masked by the magical, ephemeral costumery of the circus, and apparently, with the greatest of ease, the show indeed is going on.

On Chess: Circus Flora Plays Both Sides Of The Board

Jun 4, 2014
Circus Flora

The word circus conjures several interpretations, a different idea according to every one’s experience. Many of those definitions, as Circus Flora teaches us, can brilliantly oppose each other in both harmony and balance – and that the chess player can appreciate.

Dan Donovan

The Big Top is back in Grand Center for Circus Flora’s 28th season with “The Pawn,” a show inspired by the venerable game of chess.

Circus Flora

The members of the Circus Flora family were stunned and saddened when their beloved patriarch David Balding passed away on Friday, May 9. One of the members of that family is theater director Cecil MacKinnon who is also known as Yo-Yo, the Narrator. She joined Cityscape host Steve Potter to remember Balding.

Commentary: The Circus Arts Thrive In St. Louis

Sep 6, 2013
Courtesy Circus Flora

The modern definition of a circus is based on the ancient word referring to the actual performance area, a circle of sorts, in which gladiatorial events, chariot races, etc. took place.

Circus Flora poster

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The theme of this year's Circus Flora is "A Trip to the Moon," an homage to the 1902 fantasy film of the same name, but on Friday night there was no moon to be seen in the angry skies above the big red tent in Grand Center. Inside, a fanciful replica of the moon smiled over the circus ring. The opening night crowd was enjoying itself mightily, focused on entertainment, not the weather.

Courtesy Circus Flora

‘A Trip to the Moon’ is a French black-and-white silent film produced in 1902.  The plot is about a group of astronomers who take an expedition to the moon.

St. Louis Symphony

Each Spring, Circus Flora sets up its “big top” in the parking lot of Powell Hall.  Over the years, the Flying Wallendas, Nino the Clown, and the St. Louis Arches have become familiar to many St. Louisans.  

For the second time, Circus Flora will move inside the hall, high wires and all, to join the St. Louis Symphony in a holiday production which will bring to life Dylan Thomas’ classic, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” 

Even more magic this year at Circus Flora

Jun 2, 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 2, 2012 - Circus Flora launched its 26th season Friday night with a bang, plus a startling flash of light and a bright puff of smoke. The theme this year is “The Wizard: Merlin and the Legends of King Arthur,” and magic was in the air.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 22, 2011 - Slowly but with magnificent assurance June can call itself Festival Month in St. Louis, and if the promotional powers that be in this region need something to ballyhoo nationally and internationally, our schedule of festivals is certainly worthy of a quite honest and unequivocal presentation.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 5, 2011 - Many familiar faces, some not seen for a while, have returned to St. Louis to help Circus Flora celebrate its 25th anniversary with an exciting, briskly entertaining show.

The legendary Flying Wallendas, who were not part of last year's show, are back, forming pyramids and riding bicycles -- forward and backward -- on the high wire, and the equally legendary Alexandre Sacha Pavlata has returned after a hiatus of several years.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 6, 2011 - Circuses are peripatetic beasts, roaming under cover of canvas from one town to the next, trying their best to roar their loudest to trumpet a claim to status not simply as the greatest show in town but The Greatest Show on Earth!

Circus Flora, our very own St. Louis circus, which many of us cherish as just that -- the greatest one-ring circus on Earth -- has done its share of out-of-town gigs.

Review: Flora's good luck

Nov 22, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 22, 2010 - The Oprah Winfrey Network has acquired the rights to the documentary film "One Lucky Elephant," the bittersweet story of David Balding, founder and director of St. Louis's Circus Flora, and the female elephant that gave the circus its name. The film is expected to be shown in the spring as part of the new network's documentary film series.

The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) will debut on cable television Jan. 1.

Jessica Hentoff: Circus lady, circus teacher

Nov 18, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 18, 2010 - Sometimes it takes an accident to discover a life passion, but rarely does discovery require a 30-foot fall from a circus trapeze. It did for Circus Harmony director Jessica Hentoff, whose circus troupe and its trip to Israel are the subject of new motion picture documentary "Circus Kids" showing Sun., Nov. 21 at 1:30 p.m. as part of the St. Louis International Film Festival.

Day 3 at SLIFF - Documentaries on Flora, Phil and New Orleans shine

Nov 13, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 13, 2010 - One Lucky Elephant

"I wanted an elephant all my life," says David Balding, director of St. Louis' Circus Flora, at the beginning of this emotionally compelling documentary about the bonds that can exist between species. He adds, "Be careful what you wish for."

'Ingenioso' is ingenious Circus Flora production

Jun 5, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 5, 2010 - St. Louis-based Circus Flora opened its 24th season Friday night with a bang and a gallop. The Riders of the Ring, a daring troupe of Cossack horsemen, sped around the single ring performing acrobatics on horses traveling literally at breakneck speed. Adding to the sheer exhilaration of the performance was a whip banging like a firecracker in the air.

Circus Flora soars at home in St. Louis

Jun 6, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 6, 2009 - Before the show really gets underway at Circus Flora, before the horses gallop and the acrobats tumble and the aerialists soar, three clowns come into the ring, carrying boards and buckets of paint. They are dressed in yellow overalls and red clown hats and they proceed to “accidentally” knock each other down with the boards and spill gallons of what looks like white paint all over each other. Soon, they are covered in the gooey white stuff and are sputtering to clear it from their noses and mouths.

'Medrano' is under big top at Circus Flora

Jun 1, 2009

Posted 11:30 a.m. Mon., June 1 - This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 1, 2009 - While the horse trots around the sawdust-and-dirt-covered circus ring, Sasha Alexandre Nevidonski swings his legs up, out of a standard straddle. His knees land on the horse's back. The horse picks up speed, almost to a gallop, still circling in the dark, musty tent. Nevidonski pushes himself up until he's standing upright on the horse's back.

He moves quickly, executing the straddle-to-stand (move) within 30 seconds, but practice for other Circus Flora acts isn't over yet.

Circus Flora soars

Jun 7, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 7, 2008 - Circus Flora opened its 21st season in St. Louis on Friday, June 6, with one of the best shows in its history. Anchored by two superb trapeze acts – three when you count the deceptively goofy-appearing high-bar antics of clown Giovanni Zoppe, known as “Nino” – the show started strong and stayed that way.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: By the time you read this, Scott Parkman should be packed up and setting off for Boston, where he’ll begin a new phase of an already quite successful career as a conductor and composer.

At Powell Symphony Hall, the St. Louis Beacon’s neighbor here in the Grand Center neighborhood, Parkman was assistant conductor of the St. Louis Symphony and music director of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. His most profound and enduring legacy lives with hundreds of young men and women who worked with him and for him in the Youth Orchestra.