Circus Flora's Story

Brief History

Gian Carlo Menotti originally commissioned Circus Flora for the 1986 Spoleto Festival USA. Based on the overwhelmingly positive response at its debut, Artistic Director/Producer, Ivor David Balding, together with Sheila and Sam Jewell and Alexandre Sacha Pavlata, established Circus Flora in 1987 as a permanent performing arts organization in St. Louis.

Established as a theater company, Circus Flora specialized in an ensemble, one-ring circus - performed in a big top tent - accessible and affordable for all. This new performing arts organization set out to acquaint audiences with the joy and power of the classic, European-style circus.

Flora, for which the Circus is named, is an orphaned elephant that Balding rescued when her mother was killed by ivory poachers in Africa. For fifteen years, Flora was a beloved star of the circus. In 2000, Flora retired from stage life and currently resides in the elephant sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee.

The Circus Flora Experience

Circus Flora was a hit from the very beginning. Not content with a traditional circus, Balding set out to create a new formula - weaving separate acts together by the common thread of an engaging storyline.
Original, live music and a narrative frame the acts, bringing animals and people together in a unique celebration of life. By integrating classic traditions of the circus with theater techniques, an ensemble cast and a storyline, Circus Flora produces mesmerizing shows that consistently deliver wonder and amazement to audience members of all ages.

The ensemble company mixes the best of world-class, family-based circus knowledge, passed down from generation to generation, with actors, dancers, musicians and animals, as well as performers from the new circus street and vaudeville movements. The artistry, magic and charm of Circus Flora's performances have made it part of the vanguard of the "new circus" movement in North America.

Success of the Circus

Adding to the distinctiveness and richness of the community, St. Louis is fortunate to be one of only four cities in the country with a Circus of its very own. Each June, Circus Flora pitches the big red top tent on the Powell Symphony Hall parking lot to offer St. Louisans an amazing production of world-class performances.

Year after year, Circus Flora's momentum continues to grow. The 2011 season brought more than 30,000 fans to the big top across the two and a half week run. In 1997, Circus Flora's big top tent was the first ever to be erected at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; and in 2002, the tent was raised at The Lincoln Center Festival in New York City. Additionally, the Circus has made an unprecedented six appearances at the prestigious Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, and five appearances on the Island of Nantucket.


Photo by Dan Donovan