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Step right up: 90-year-old will celebrate her birthday in a trapeze act for Circus Harmony

Elizabeth Herring, who turned 90 on Oct. 26, practives for her trapeze show in this photo taken in October of 2016.
Provided | Elizabeth Herring
Elizabeth Herring, who turned 90 on Oct. 26, practives for her trapeze show.

As a teenager, Elizabeth Herring of Ladue escaped a life luxury by joining the circus. Tonight, she’ll be back in the ring, celebrating her 90th birthday at a party benefiting St. Louis’Circus Harmony.

When she turned 80, Herring debuted her City Museum trapeze act to raise money for the circus group, which helps kids build skills and confidence through practices and international performance.

It’s a cause that means a lot to her for many reasons.

“Because of the great teachers and inspiring young students I have met and worked with there,” Herring wrote in an email. “I see how they teach life skills thru circus arts, toleration, challenge and accomplishment, team work and dependability.”

Elizabeth Herring poses with the trapeze at City Museum in this October 2016 photo.
Credit Provided | Elizabeth Herring
Elizabeth Herring poses with the trapeze at City Museum.

The lifelong dancer said it wasn't with the greatest of ease that she learned the trapeze back then; 10 years later, it’s even more difficult. During Thursday’s dress rehearsal, as she hung upside-down, her top slipped, creating a "wardrobe malfunction," as she called it on her Facebook page. Then the sequins on her wrist got caught on her fishnet stockings.

“Only way to get loose was to rip them apart. So now I need new fishnets and a different bra. That's show biz for you!” Herring wrote.

When Herring was 19, she signed up with Ringling Brothers after they came to a New York dance school she attended, recruiting new talent. With the circus, she toured the United States, wowing crowds by dangling from the mouth of an elephant.

After tonight, Herring is hanging up her trapeze act. But she’ll continue volunteering at the St. Louis juvenile detention center, tutoring students and teaching ballet to the girls.

“That is my activity which I value the most,” Herring said. “They know my being there means I appreciate them and care for them. I believe it makes a difference to them.”

You can see photos of Herring’s escapades, including one of her inside an elephant’s mouth, in our earlier story about Herring’s unorthodox life, and of her ballet classes at the juvenile detention center.

Follow Nancy on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

If You Go:

Elizabeth Herring’s 90th birthday party benefiting St. Louis’ Circus Harmony

Where: City Museum, 750 North 16th St, 63103  

When: 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2

How much: Free performance; $10 for museum admission after 5 p.m.

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.