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Seen and Heard: Rochester girl flies for Circus Juventus

Elia Oldenburg, 11, is a costumed performer in Circus Juventas’ summer production.
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Two Rochester performing artists are taking to the stages of St. Paul this month.

Eleven-year-old Elia Oldenburg is one of the youngest performers in the Circus Juventas 2018 summer show, "Steam: Grab your goggles and fly!" She began her circus career as a 3-year-old when her family lived in Minneapolis. Seeking an activity for his "energetic toddler," Ryan Oldenburg, Elia’s father, discovered Circus Juventas, which he describes as "an inclusive, artistic environment."

"There is something for everyone," Oldenburg said. "You don’t need to be a gymnast."

He described the setting as a "healthy mix of creative art and teamwork." Students are not only trained in the circus arts, but instructors from around the world are also helping the youngsters develop confidence.

During the school year, Elia travels to St. Paul three nights a week, enhancing her skills in the circus arts, including contortion, unicycling and aerial performance. With the arrival of summer, Elia’s time at Circus Juventas is ramped up significantly in preparation for the summer show. She will spend four weeks in St. Paul fine-tuning the routines she and her teammates have worked on during the past year.


Elia’s favorite element of the circus arts is the unicycle. Working with a partner (who is riding the unicycle) Elia can balance on one foot on her teammate’s shoulder. She definitely recognizes that "trust" is essential. Her love of Circus Juventas is evident. Beyond the summer show, Elia is looking forward to the day when her toddler sister can begin training in the circus and she can be a "student coach" in the class.

"Steam" is a three-hour production, and Elia will perform in 18 shows. She says it can be "stressful, but it’s worth it. I love it!" Elia and her teammates will head to the Big Top when performances begin July 17 and run through Aug. 12.

‘Mamma Mia’ role was unexpected

Cailyn Johnson spent her childhood in Rochester dancing with Janet Lange and Ballet Blake, and the Rec Center was her "second home," where she ice skated for 14 years. Her Rochester theater experience includes performances at Friedell Middle School, Mayo High School and the Rochester Civic Theater.

When Cailyn graduated from Mayo in 2015, she took a gap year and skated with Disney on Ice, touring the United States for eight months. In the fall of 2016, she began her studies in theater and computer science at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. While the two areas of study may not seem connected, she loves that the school creates flexible opportunities and allows students to explore their passions.

This summer is Cailyn’s professional theater debut with a role in the ensemble of the musical "Mamma Mia" at the Ordway in St. Paul. When she auditioned in February, her acceptance email was "a little unexpected" as she entered the process really just to practice her audition skills. Rehearsals began in mid-June, and Johnson is spending five full days a week singing and dancing.

Cailyn describes the show as "high energy" and "loads of fun." She is no stranger to ABBA’s music, having grown up with parents who are fans. Performances at the Ordway begin July 17 and run through August 5.

After the show closes, Cailyn will return to Northwestern for her junior year. But she says "Mamma Mia" is giving her a chance "to grow as an actor and see where that will take me."


Related Topics: ARTMUSIC
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