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Celebrating the Joyful Life of Ivor David Balding of Circus Flora

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Photo: Circus Flora/Durb Curlee

Photo: Circus Flora/Durb Curlee

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By Debbie Monterrey, dcmonterrey@cbs.com

It is amazing how one man can affect the lives of so many others. David Balding’s vision to create a special circus right here in St. Louis has touched the lives of tens of thousands.

David Balding Memorial. Photo by Debbie Monterrey

David Balding Memorial. Photo by Debbie Monterrey

Several hundred of those who loved and admired Balding attended his memorial on Memorial Day. Fittingly, it was held under the big top where Circus Flora will kick off its 28th season this Friday (May 30). Click here for Circus Flora ticket information.

Photo by Debbie Monterrey

Photo by Debbie Monterrey

There are only three cities in the United States that can claim their very own circus, and St. Louis is one. It may have happened almost by accident that Balding and his elephant, Flora, found themselves stuck here. But everything happens for a reason.

David Balding and Flora

David Balding and Flora

Getting delayed in St. Louis meant David met his future wife. He established Circus Flora, a showcase of circus arts and thrills; a one-ring, intimate, European-style show that changed the way many of us think about circus. (Like many Circus Flora fans, I always thought I didn’t like circus. Until my first Circus Flora show).

David Balding with Jessica Hentoff (Photo courtesy of J. Hentoff)

David Balding with Jessica Hentoff (Photo courtesy of J. Hentoff)

He hired Jessica Hentoff who formed Everyday Circus, then Circus Harmony, home of the St. Louis Arches who perform at Circus Flora every year (and at City Museum every week). My daughter fell in love with Jessica’s daughter, Elliana Hentoff-Killian, after seeing her doing a double-lyra act during a Circus Flora/St. Louis Symphony show. She began taking classes at Circus Harmony with Elliana and other Arches as her teachers. I can tell you, it was a life-changer for my shy girl.

St. Louis Arches (Photo courtesy of Jessica Hentoff)

St. Louis Arches (Photo courtesy of Jessica Hentoff)

A number of St. Louis Arches (the elite performers from Circus Harmony school) have gone on to the national circus schools in Canada and several are now performing with circuses big and small. St. Louis has become a feeder city for great circus talent, all because David Balding brought circus here.

I’ve been on the Circus Flora Board for a number of years now. It’s a labor of love for most of us. There’s no pay, there’s never much money in the bank, and upcoming expenses, like needing a new tent, are stressful. We struggled for several years to come up with a succession plan, paving the way for David Balding’s eventual retirement.
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Why do we do it? Because we love it. We love Circus Flora and everything it stands for. The feeling of family, acceptance. Seeing the wonder, awe and laughter in the audience. Seeing people of all ages discovering the magic.

David Balding, you will be missed, but never forgotten. Your legacy lives on. Thank you for everything. We will take good of Circus Flora.

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