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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Circus Flora teams up with St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

BY CALVIN WILSON • calvinwilson@post-dispatch.comwww.STLtoday.com Thursday,January 6, 2011
It's not unusual for Circus Flora to perform under the Big Top not far from Powell Symphony Hall. But this weekend, the acrobats, jugglers and high-wire walkers will take the magic inside the classical music venue — to the accompaniment of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
"The Floating Palace" marks Circus Flora's 25th anniversary. The show, which takes its name from a riverboat that toured the Mississippi River in the 1850s, is the first collaboration between the circus and the symphony.
"It's an honor to us," says Ivor David Balding, artistic director and producer of Circus Flora. "We like to think of ourselves as a beloved St. Louis institution, but we know the symphony is one. It's also, to be honest, nice to get out of the parking lot and into the building."
The show is part of the Live at Powell Hall series. Fred Bronstein, president and CEO of the SLSO, says the series aims to "present different kinds of programs, a little more popularly oriented, reaching different kinds of audiences."
Collaborating with Circus Flora was a natural.
"We thought it would be particularly interesting to design a special show," Bronstein says. "There have been a couple of (SLSO) shows with some circus elements incorporated. But nothing to this extent."
Fans of Circus Flora shouldn't be disappointed by the array of acts, Balding says, or the narrative involving pirates, spies and romance. But don't expect any whinnying.
"We can't have any horses galloping on the stage," Balding says with a laugh. "And I love to do shows with horses. But we do have a very funny dog act, as well as some of the best aerial acts in the country."
The St. Louis Arches, a troupe of young acrobats, will play stowaways on the boat. The real Floating Palace, he says, "was extremely elegant, with about 2,500 seats. It had a full circus ring in it."
Creating a circus atmosphere in Powell poses a few challenges, Bronstein says.
"We had to figure out, 'What's going to work in this hall, what can actually be done?'" he says. "There'll be high-wire acts above the audience, but we brought in a structural engineer to make sure all of that stuff could be rigged properly."
While being family-oriented, Bronstein says, "The Floating Palace" also will allow the symphony orchestra to perform classical favorites.
"We've got some Copland, we've got some music from 'Peer Gynt,' a little bit of Sibelius — it's a wide range," he says. "But most of it will be very recognizable to people."


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