Midway through the second act of “Nordrsaga,” the young performers of Circus Juventas set up a series of acrobatic tricks using a pair of teeterboards — think seesaw, but with the goal of propelling a person skyward so they can do flips and somersaults in midair.
For one jump, the target was a chair perched on a stand on another performer’s shoulders. It looked tough, but the acrobat landed perfectly. That earned not just applause from this reviewer, but an actual fist pump in the air, like I had just seen a particularly fiery guitar solo, or a sweet professional wrestling move.
Circus Juventas, a St. Paul-based performing arts school, trains thousands of young performers each year, and its summer show offers the most advanced students a chance to showcase their considerable skills.
Like Cirque du Soleil and similar groups, it focuses on the amazing things that a mixture of strength, skill, nerve and physics can conjure. This year, those stunts are tied together by way of a journey through Norse mythology, with Thor, Loki, dwarves, frost giants, and — of course — Mjölnir, the thunder god’s powerful hammer.
There’s also a hero’s quest tossed in. A young librarian, Leif, finds himself ensnared in the quest to recapture Mjölnir after the trickster Loki steals it from the somewhat thick-headed Thor. It’s up the duo, along with allies they meet along the way, to get it back as they visit the realms of elves, dwarves, trolls and other creatures from Norse mythology.
That story, crafted by Brave New Workshop associate director Katy McEwen, serves as a framework for the various acts. The trio of giants, for example, are performers on stilts. Leif shows that he is worthy of the journey by conquering the Russian bar (it’s like a trampoline merged with a balance beam, carried on two performers’ shoulders).
And really, it’s the physical derring-do that keeps your attention through the show. After a Russian swing is used to propel the actors far across the stage or high into the air, we get a bona fide high-wire act where they balance on a cable smaller than the width of their foot. The dazzling work ranges from ground-based tumbling and juggling to aerial feats with silks, straps and a number of different trapezes.
While the performers’ skills are solid throughout, credit also goes to “Nordrsaga’s” engaging lead actors, especially Anwar Hassouni as Leif, Madison Grady as Loki and Brauc Eckman as Thor. Their natural stage presence mixes well with their physical abilities to make for compelling performances.
Ed Huyck is a Twin Cities theater critic.