Ivor David Balding

From Circopedia

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Circus Producer and Artistic Director

By Dominique Jando


Born in 1942, Ivor David Balding grew up in a horse farm in Camden, South Carolina. His father was the famous British polo player, Ivor G. Balding (1909-2005), who, along with his brothers Barney and Gerald, played polo in the United States throughout the 1930's at the Meadow Brook Club on Long Island, then the national center of the sport. Ivor G. Balding subsequently went on to work at the C.V. Whitney Farm in Old Westbury, N.Y., before becoming manager of the Whitney Farm in Lexington, where he raised and trained racing-horses.

In Britain, Ivor David Balding’s grandfather had sold horses to various circuses in his time, and David himself was introduced to the circus and theater worlds through his father’s connections. He began his show business career as stage manager at the Westport Country Playhouse for legendary Broadway actress Eva Le Gallienne (1899-1991). Le Gallienne, who had performed in her youth as an equestrienne at the illustrious Cirque Medrano in Paris, gave David an introduction to the Fratellini family, who helped him land a job as spotlight operator at the famous Parisian circus. There, David had a invaluable initiation to the circus world.

Back to the U.S., David Balding worked for Joe Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival, and then founded the New Theatre in New York. During his tenure there, he produced 21 plays, including The Knack, The Ginger Man, Scuba Duba, Steambath, The Man in the Glass Booth, and Lenny. His productions were nominated for two Tony Awards and won five Obie Awards.

From The Circus World Championships To Circus Flora

But the vagaries of theater production forced him to change course, and David went to work for CBS Sports in Europe, where his attraction to the circus only grew bigger. There, he conceived and co-produced the Circus World Championships: Held annually in London from 1976 to 1986, this circus competition was broadcast on the BBC (with network specials for both CBS and NBC) and became quite an event in the European circus world. While in England, Balding also managed Jimmy Chipperfield's Circus World.

In 1980, David Balding helped produce the Big Apple Circus's first Holiday production at New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. In 1985, he co-founded Circus Flora, and has been the producer/artistic director of this highly acclaimed traditional, one-ring circus since its inception. More than 22 different productions of Circus Flora have been performed in the U.S. at venues including the Glimmerglass Opera House; six years at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina; Lincoln Center’s Ta’ziyeh; and in Washington, DC, Circus Flora erected the first Big Top Tent ever at The Kennedy Center.

David Balding was the circus consultant to Paramount Pictures for the film, Big Top Pee Wee (1988) and artistic consultant for the Los Angeles Circus Festival in 1990. He also collaborated with director/choreographer Martha Clarke on Endangered Species (1990), presented at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival. In 1991 and 1992, Balding served as the first artistic director for First Night, St. Louis' family arts festival celebrating New Year's Eve.

In 2008, Ivor David Balding received the Excellence in the Arts award from the Arts & Education Council of St. Louis for his lifetime dedication to the arts.

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