photo by George Koertel
St. Louis’ Homegrown Circus Harmony heads to the
Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC
June 15, 2017 (St. Louis, MO) – Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus may be no more but St. Louis’ homegrown, world-renowned social circus, Circus Harmony, is alive and well and will participate as a presenting partner in the 50th Anniversary of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. June 29 to July 4 and July 6 to July 9.
Circus Harmony founder and artistic director, Jessica Hentoff, along with her jugglers, acrobats and aerial artists will dazzle audiences who gather to see, hear and experience the spectacle, and mystique of circus arts along the National Mall in Washington, DC. Circus Harmony will bring their daring and diverse performance troupe, the St. Louis Arches, along with some additional stunning performers including Harmony alums, Elliana Grace (former Ringling human cannonball who now has her own one- woman circus show) and Kellin Quinn (one of the top 40 jugglers in the world for the past 4 years). In addition to performing, Hentoff and her crew will be teaching, demonstrating and explaining circus arts and artistry as well as how they use circus to motivate social change.
Circus Harmony performers are usually seen in their home ring on the third floor of the iconic City Museum in downtown St. Louis. They have been spending the month of June in their annual appearance with Circus Flora and are thrilled to be part of the biggest circus event in American history. On July 5, the one off day for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Jessica will chair a Social Circus panel for the National Endowment for the Arts, entitled Circus for the 21st Century. This forum brings together funders, owner/producers, presenters, youth/social circus directors, individual performers, technicians and legacy families to discuss the needs and challenges of a new and vibrant emergent circus community.
“It is an honor to participate in such a prestigious event and represent social circus, youth circus and the City of St. Louis. This is a testament to our young, talented performers, whose abilities belie their years and to the work we do to build pyramids out of people and bridges between communities.” Ms. Hentoff stated about her troupe’s appearance at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and NEA events. In addition, they will be presenting a special show titled Watch Out for Flying Kids at the Kennedy Center on the Millenium stage at 6 PM on July 7!
The Folklife Festival is a research-based, collaboratively produced event that requires two years or more to develop. The festival’s director, Sabrina Lynn Motley, invited Hentoff to join the Festival because of Circus Harmony’s well-known reputation for promoting constructive social change. “Cooperation, trust and mutual respect are at the heart of the circus arts and Jessica’s work with Circus Harmony embodies those values,” said Motley. In the words of one alumni who went from inner city St. Louis to touring the world as an international circus performer, “Being in Circus Harmony didn’t change my life, it saved my life!”
Circus Harmony teaches more than 1000 children a year, with over half of the population served coming from low-income families. Circus Harmony programs teach valuable life skills like perseverance, focus, and teamwork. Learning circus with others teaches trust, responsibility and cooperation. Perhaps the most important experience they give participants is the opportunity to meet and interact with children from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds than their own. At the same time, they learn high level circus arts as they have the opportunity to be both physical and creative.
Circus Harmony is a nonprofit, social circus organization that uses circus arts to cultivate personal growth and motivate social change. Founded by Jessica Hentoff—also a founding member of Big Apple Circus and Circus Flora—Circus Harmony believes the path to peace is one of cooperation and communication. By inspiring individuals and connecting communities with circus education and entertainment programs, Circus Harmony has a positive impact on the St. Louis area and beyond. Teaching children from different neighborhoods how to stand on each other’s shoulders may seem like a strange way to take this path, but it works!
Jessica Hentoff, Circus Harmony