October 31,2017 (St. Louis, MO) - Basketball and circus? Think Harlem Globetrotters on unicycle and you have the legendary King Charles Troupe! November 3-4, Kip Jones, veteran member of this illustrious troupe will be in St. Louis
passing on some of the King Charles magic to Circus Harmony's one wheel wonders who are working on a unicycle/juggling act to represent the 1970s in their upcoming show Legato, to be presented at City Museum in January.
According to their
, The King Charles Troupe have been hooping it up since 1958 when "concerned with the social evils in his community Jerry King started a unicycle club and laid down a foundation based upon discipline, direction, and Christian principles. The club, based out of the South Bronx, eventually consisted of 100 kids, and used it as an opportunity to build character and prevent them from becoming at risk. From this club, The King Charles Troupe was born." Still wheeling and whooshing, several generations later, the troupe has been around the world and back again.
Circus Harmony is St. Louis' only social circus. Sadly, youth today still face social evils in their communities and Circus Harmony, St. Louis' only social circus, provides circus training in the same way--- with discipline and direction--- for the same reason --- to build character and prevent them from becoming at risk--- that Jerry King did so many years ago. Circus Harmony is based inside of St. Louis' iconic City Museum but they have numerous outreach programs throughout the metropolitan area.
For this year's annual production, Circus Harmony's flying children decided to make the show about circus across the decades from 1920-2010. For 1970, they chose to do an homage to the King Charles unicycle/juggling act. Circus Harmony director, Jessica Hentoff, first met the King Charles Troupe in the 1970s, in the South Bronx, when she and the King Charles troupe were training with the same Russian master coaches, Nina Krasavin and Gregory Fedin. In 2012, Jessica's daughter, Circus Harmony alumna, Elliana Grace, was a human cannonball on Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey where the King Charles' next generation was a featured troupe.
"Circus is all about passing it on," said Circus Harmony director Jessica Hentoff. "While it makes me sad that young people today are still facing so many of the same social problems that Jerry King was fighting against in the South Bronx in 1958, I love that the roots of Jerry King's work that have been passed on for generations on the East coast will now be shared here in St. Louis by Kip Jones. Kip and I have both been on our own circus journeys since meeting in that Bronx gym over 40 years ago and we both know the importance of passing it on!"
The Circus Harmony unicycle/basketball act features teenager Ethan Kern-Ryan, who joined Circus Harmony when they brought their Peace Through Pyramids outreach program to Ferguson in 2015. Ethan was the first in his Ferguson neighborhood to start unicycling, but now there is a small unicycle act starting there, too!. Circus has always been about crossing boundaries and working together." At Circus Harmony, children learn when they focus on their similarities instead of their differences, they can create something amazing together," Hentoff said. Like members of the King Charles Troupe, some of Circus Harmony's students have also gone on to tour the world. In fact, two of them, Sidney Iking Bateman and Melvin Diggs have just been signed with Cirque du Soleil. "Circus can be the ticket to working together within your community and, sometimes, it can be a ticket out," Hentoff pointed out. "Either way, circus gives these young people opportunities they would not have had otherwise and also gives the broader community a chance to see what young people are capable of, in a positive way."
Kip Jones will be working with the Circus Harmony students Nov 3- 5 at City Museum. Since the Circus Harmony space is surrounded by windows, patrons to the Museum can watch the group practicing. Hentoff added, "Who knows, one of these young cyclists may end up touring the world with the next generation of the King Charles Troupe. This is the circus after all, where anything is possible!"
Here is a
Circus Fledglings video interview
Jessica Hentoff of Circus Harmony and Floyd 'Sweets' Harrison of King Charles Troupe from when Elliana Grace and the King Charles Troupe were on Ringling Brothers together
is a nonprofit, social circus organization that uses circus arts to cultivate personal growth and motivate social change. 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!
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Circus Harmony 's Malik and Oliver
Kip Jones form king Charles Troupe