Circus Juventas' most seasoned students perform in the summer show, "Oz." (Circus Juventas)
By Renee Valois
Special to the Pioneer Press
Cirque du Soleil, the famous acrobatic troupe that inspired Circus Juventas, changed our idea of what a circus can be. Now Circus Juventas has transformed our image of the land of "Oz," tweaking the tale and telling it with an amazing mix of aerial and earthbound acrobatics, graceful ballet moves, contortions, fire juggling, clowning and over-the top theatrics.
Dare I say Circus Juventas is more exciting than the troupe that inspired it? Under their custom-made big top, you get to sit much closer to the action. And you're always aware that these are young nonprofessionals (mostly teens) doing impossible and dangerous routines -- some without a net, a safety line or mats underneath. It makes you hold your breath frequently. The young girl who sat behind us (and kept commenting throughout the show), more than once said, "I'm feeling anxious" to her mom.
You get a hint of the danger to the performers when there are rare near misses -- such as when a young man holding a moving woman aloft while trying to keep them upright on a rolling board temporarily loses his balance. We also gasped when one of the main performers flew high into the air to do head-spinning turns and flips and land backward on a pole held between two men, but partially missed the pole and the mat. He got right back up and did an even higher and more impressive aerial routine before landing soundly on the pole.
Those were the only two mishaps we saw in an action-packed show that ran more than 3 hours -- and they only heightened our respect for the courage and expertise of the performers.