"Circus Flora is about performance, not spectacle," says Ivor David Balding, co-founder and artistic director/producer of the company, which puts on a traditional European-style circus under a red big-top where no audience member is more than 42 feet away from the action. Story, tradition, and circus culture play a huge role in the shows, keeping them family-oriented yet technically precise.
Circus Flora's newest production celebrates the anniversary of their creation in Charleston at Spoleto 20 years ago. In Homage, The Baldini family land on Charleston's shores after an arduous journey. A crime occurs in which the family is implicated and outlawed. They perform various acts of bravery and end up winning over the citizens of Charleston, resulting in the beginning of the circus in America.
Alexandre Sacha Pavlata, a co-founder and one of the company's main performers, stars in this production, as well as Giovanni Zoppe as Nino the Clown. New performers include a canine act, a pair of bareback riders, and an aerial ballet (on horseback!) act.
Twenty years after it was created, Circus Flora continues to dazzle audiences with a roster of daring performers — like the famous Flying Wallendas, the Fratelli Zoppe, and Katja Schumann. The teams all work together, crossing over to each other's acts, further removing the walls of separation among the talent. And while Circus Flora may have the feel of a grassroots operation, the people behind the show have some pretty impressive resumes. Balding founded a theatre company in New York, won Tonys and Obies, was consulting producer for Big Apple Circus in New York, and served as the circus consultant for the film Big Top Pee Wee. Cecil MacKinnon, theatre director and featured performer (as Yo-Yo the narrator), teaches at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and has been a member of no fewer than five New York theatre companies, as well as founding the Pickle Family Circus. Their experience is what helps make Circus Flora more than a thrown-together performance under a tent and elevates it to a unique experience for old and young alike.
CIRCUS FLORA • Spoleto Festival USA • $10-$30 • May 25 at 6 p.m., May 26 at 2 and 8 p.m., May 27, 28, 29, 30 at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. • Ansonborough Field, corner of Concord and Laurens streets • 579-3100