>Circus Flora< is a St. Louis theatrical treasure. It is nothing like the Ringling Brothers or the Shriners circuses, or any of the other madness-and-mayhem, three-ring, stadium types that you may have seen in the past.
Circus Flora is a one-ring circus, based on the European traditions of ensemble performance, where each of the acts tells a part of a story that moves a larger story along to its conclusion. The charming big-top seats about 500 (I’m guessing.) A live band plays to accompany the performances. Each year a new tale is told, new music and costumes are created. The thrill of the circus is not lost in the art; the high-wire acts will take your breath away, and the clowns will make you laugh, and sometimes wipe a tear.
Circus Flora is in town every year for a few weeks, and it runs this year (2009) through June 21, in Grand Center (under an air-conditioned big top tent on the parking lot adjacent to Powell Symphony Hall.) After the run here, it leaves to tour the world.
If you have not been to Circus Flora, I really am tempted to say, “Shame on you!” In St. Louis, so many people whine about the wonderful things other cities have, yet so many don’t support things like Circus Flora, which is honored the world over, and based in St. Louis. So, support it, or it will find a home someday that appreciates it with ticket sales. I’ve been attending with nieces and nephews in tow since 1986.
I went last Saturday, and there were far too many empty seats under the tent. It doesn’t make sense to me. The circus has regular matinee and evening performances, shorter performances for smaller children/older adults who may not want to be out till 9:30 or 10 at night; peanut free performances. They bend over backwards to accommodate and delight. The performers, including equestrian riders, Wallenda family high-wire artists, aerial acrobats, clowns, jugglers, all walk out with the patrons at the conclusion and pose for pictures, sign autographs, and thank everyone for coming.
Another interesting tie to St. Louis is the St. Louis Arches acrobat, juggling and tumbling troupe performing with Circus Flora each year. It’s a group of local performers from about age 5 to 20. They are based at the City Museum, and you can see them practicing at the museum (and/or attend their summer camp there.) The St. Louis Arches and Circus Harmony circus school at City Museum live by the saying, “Peace through pyramids! Harmony through handsprings!”
Circus Lover’s Tip: Even if you go on a typical hot and humid St. Louis June evening, if you get chilly easily (or if your children do) be sure and take a sweater or light wrap for under the tent. It’s wonderful that’s it’s air-conditioned, however, sitting in the dark of the theater, in the air conditioning, you might at some point want a sweater.
You can buy tickets online at the link at the top of this post. After you see the show, post your comments here: The kids we took Saturday night can’t stop talking about it, and they want to start their own circus!
Photos of Circus Flora ensemble, Yo-Yo the narrator, Nino the clown, St. Louis Arches and Wallendas from Circus Flora Web site
Photo of Nino and young fan from New York Times interview, taken by Ting Le Wang, via the Web
Children in cardigans from http://www.coolwoolz.co.uk via the Web