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Photo by Bill Raab, courtesy of Circus Juventas

Photo by Bill Raab, courtesy of Circus Juventas

The Twin Cities are hopping this weekend: Minnesota Fringe Festival launches into its 176 shows in 16 venues across Minneapolis beginning Thursday. Loring Park Art Festival takes up residence in the park next to the Walker Art Center on Saturday and Sunday. In Northeast Minneapolis, a much-buzzed-about new space, Public Functionary, is hosting a Naked Space party — a between-exhibitions art/music/schmooze event they’re calling “Bright Lights.”

There’s a lot to see and do right now, I know. Even so, I have something you need to add to your calendar. Circus Juventas’ “OZ!” opens soon, with a run of 21 shows from August 1 to 18. This annual late-summer spectacle showcases the most seasoned, accomplished students studying at Circus Juventas, the largest youth circus arts school in North America.

A diverse assortment of area youth train all year to perfect traditional, European-style circus acts (think Cirque du Soleil, rather than the three-rings-and-animals fare of Ringling Brothers). The sets and costumes for these themed shows are always elaborate. But the choreography, the acrobatic skill and athletic discipline evident in these young performers’ acts is simply breathtaking. It’s a reliably fantastic show.

Circus Juventas' summer show, "OZ!," runs from August 1 - 18.

Circus Juventas’ summer show, “OZ!,” runs from August 1 – 18.

As the title suggests, this year’s show pays homage to Dorothy’s odyssey through Oz, including acrobatic munchkins and an emerald-green city (complete with antic gatekeepers), wicked witches in a spinning cube, “gravity-defying castle guards leaping the keep… aerial monkey attacks on the wall trampoline, the Tin Man spinning on a Cyr Wheel [and] a wizard to remind us that there is no place like home.”

A new set piece was created for “OZ!”: the “Maison” Trapeze, a house-shaped contraption – a steel structure that accommodates three performers, plus an additional triangle trapeze hanging below — specially made for Circus Juventas to replicate Dorothy’s house in the film version of “The Wizard of Oz.”  In addition to the usual performances — on the high wire, trapeze, the German Wheel and aerial silks, et al — new acts this year include the spinning cube, aerial chairs and the aerial bubble.

High wire. Photo by Bill Raab, courtesy of Circus Juventas.

High wire. Photo by Bill Raab, courtesy of Circus Juventas

Circus Juventas’ summer show, “OZ!,” runs from August 1-18 at 1270 Montreal Ave., St. Paul. Tickets are available online here: www.ticketworks.com/cgi-bin/order2/ticketworks/pages/event.php?Event=5172. Visit this page for more information: circusjuventas.org/index.php/performances/summer-show.

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