When Grace Bailey Ivanov was a child in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, all she wanted to do was play the piano. The instrument launched her on a performing career that took some unexpected turns, including comedy and years as a circus aerial artist.
A longtime resident of Sarasota who became part of a golden age of Sarasota circus history, Ivanov died April 1 in Glendora, California, her son, theater director and professor, Peter Ivanov said.
She was born as Grace Bailey on Aug. 31, 1925. As a child, a local symphony conductor took notice of her talent and gave her a piano as long as she promised to study and practice classical music. Her family said it wasn’t long before he took the piano away from her because the young girl only wanted to play boogie-woogie.
Her love of popular music, however, launched her on a career that included touring with Reg Kehoe and His Marimba Queens, entertaining troops during World War II and appearing in a two-minute short film “A Study in Brown.”
After she met and married Ringling circus performer Pete Ivanov, an acrobat, in 1952, she learned the circus trade and performed as an aerialist for many years, while raising three children, surviving close calls and accidents and, later, cancer. Pete Ivanov, a former president of Showfolks in Sarasota, died in 2009.
She once fell 30 feet while preparing for a performance, breaking her toes and suffering bruises all over her body…
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