Popular Lies* About Circus

A few months ago while I was perusing in Shoreditch I came across a book ‘Popular Lies* About Graphic Design‘, as someone with a vague interest in such things I bought myself a copy and read it on a long flight that same day. Since then it’s been popping up in the back of my mind fairly often as it ties into a few other ideas for a project I had planned in my own line of work, circus.

I decided to write my own list of lies told by the circus industry, which I briefly presented at the Lab:Time night at Jacksons Lane a few weeks ago. I was going to go into detail but instead I’ve decided to let you fill in the blanks, there’s an example for the first chapter title to get you going in the right direction…

Circus lies as told by the industry…

Cirque du Soleil is bad
Taking an anti-Cirque stance seems to be the cool thing to do, common to over hear circus students running the company into the ground. Criticising everything from its mega y corporation status to artistic vision.
Sure some of the shows are not my cup of tea but O is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Cirque has produced so much work. Taking into account sheer quantity and breath means it’s very probable you just haven’t seen the right Cirque performance for you.
Their artist care is second to none, from salaries to working conditions no other circus that I’m aware of offers the levels of comfort and care Soleil musters. Sure it’s a business that turns a profit (most of the time) but I don’t buy into the argument that this implies they are evil.
In general Cirque du Soleil’s influence on circus has been massively positive, from changing the publics perception of what circus actually is to pushing artists and disciplines to new heights.

Knowing about circus is pointless
Black costumes are cool
Juggling is boring, acrobatics is fun
Using melancholy music means it’s art
A good idea doesn’t require a budget
Being original and being artistic are the same thing
People will want to watch my show
Longer deadlines lead to better work
The bigger, better known companies make the best work
Sequins are bad
Circus communities = collaboration and better work
Nothing is original anymore
People care about circus

I’m sure some you will disagree with some of my lies and there are other lies you could suggest. I’d love to hear them, comment below or on Twitter.

I’m planning to give a keynote on circus lies told by the public later this month at the Fringe if I can find somewhere suitable to present it.

Here is a draft for my ‘Circus Lies Told By The Public’:
The Circus is full of Wild Animals
Clowns wear red noses/not funny
It’s just showing off
Circus takes place in tents
Trapeze and Tight-wire are the same thing
Circus is overpriced
Cirque du Soleil are the best
Circus is just for kids
Circus is old fashioned
Circus artists are freaks

Love to hear your feedback on this, anyway enjoy finding your own truth in circus.

Kiev – Part 1

So, I had just graduated from The Circus Space and had been working for a few months but for a long time I had wanted to go to the circus school in Kiev. Finally I had got it all sorted but now I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go because I had built up consistent work in London. I kept changing my mind until one thought prevailed; screw it this is a one in a lifetime chance to go and train a little more and learn the secret of handstands. From day one I have always heard that Kiev is the best school, from all the videos and circus festivals like Cirque Du Demain all my favourite acts (that I consider the best) come from Kiev. I wanted to know why they were so good what they were doing differently to me, what was their secret. So at the start of October I went to Kiev and trained handstands for 8 weeks.

I’ve had many people ask me about it, so this blog is about my journey, my experiences and my time in Kiev and I truly hope it will answer your questions and help you.

http://circusacademy.kiev.ua/perspective_of_development.html

KievThe circus school and its surroundings

Circus Artist Hotel

I stayed in the Circus artist hotel, which was about £15 a night for me; in my room I had 3 beds and 1 wardrobe. The decor was absolutely sublime; blue painted walls that if you ran you fingers down, the paint went onto your finger tips; along with bed covers that had dolphins on (which kept you safe during the night). The kitchen had an oven which didn’t work and 3 hobs, a sink and a fridge. So we had to make a cup of coffee the old school way. The bathroom had a normal toilet and then a TUB, it was a bout 2ft by 2ft, it was tiny and not comfy or in the slightest practical to have a bath in.

Again with showing how well they have moved with technology there was no washing machine and there were no laundrettes so it was hand washing (you get very sore hands) but at least the heating was good. It was also cockroach infested, which really hindered my sleep because I have never seen cockroaches and I’m not that brave (being in a different country, not speak the language was bad enough).

The walk to the circus school

The school was a 20 minute walk from the Circus Artist hotel where I was staying; it is situated in the middle of a military training base and looked like an old derelict Olympic area. It had a football pitch surrounded by concrete seats, a sand pit for long jump, high jump and pole vault, around the edge it had the running track and also had rugby goal posts. It is very old now and has Kiev graffiti all over it and is reddened with a lot of very cute stray dogs, but it was still being used everyday either by young students running and jumping or by older lads playing football tournaments.

Then you come up to the military base, where you’ll see the police marching around, they were any age from 16 to 40 and they rule – you don’t mess with them and you get out of their way – which I learnt quickly. They have to keep the whole place tidy, digging holes for trees or digging up trees. The main chore they had to do was sweep up the leaves, it really showed how traditional Kiev still is because they swept the leaves up with a bunch of twigs bundled together. It took me a while to get used to these traditional things still in their culture, to me they seemed really contrasting to the Ferrari garage that was down the road, and the ‘super cool’ sushi restaurants that all played dance music to having no washing machine and everyone sweeping up leafs with twigs and branches.

Then there is a swimming baths, I never went in them which was odd (I had a lot of spare time) but it’s this big blue building which was always being used. Then you come up to where I was, first of all it just looks like a average sports hall, you have 5 a side football courts and male and female changing rooms and communal showers, the Ukrainians there were very homophobic but they are a lot more comfortable with getting changed, showering and talking in front of each other than people are in the UK which was very interesting (I began to realise they are all much more mature for their age). I saw that they also had fencing classes there and there was an outdoor cinema but I never saw that being used.

The School

So you then get to the circus training space which starts at 9am. Every morning all the students will be waiting outside for the doors to be opened, we tried to go in early and warm up but we would get shouted at by the cleaners who every morning vacuumed the room and washed the floor, they would also sow up the crash mats (every morning!) they were like patch works (not very reassuring!)

So the space we trained in was one massive room, it looked like an old male gymnastic room, it had a Olympic size sprung floor for FX and sports acro routines and another sprung floor half the size which wasn’t very sprung more soft floor. It had 3 sets of rings (low ones, high competition ones and a pair in the pit) which we used for muscle up competitions, conditioning and a laugh. Nearly everyone in the school could muscle up – it was a basic strength move. The gym had 3 pommel horses ranging from on the floor to competition height, one mushroom into the floor which most people could do 1 double leg circle and bail, 4 parallel bars: 2 about 4 foot high and then one at competition height and one beside the pit, which ended up getting kicked and punch by the handbalancers, then 3 high bars: 2 in the pit and 1 low one on the floor which was used so all students learnt Split leg rotation/mill circle and up start and finally a tumble track running into the pit that really wasn’t that sprung just soft.

At times it was warmer outside than it was inside the training space, me and the other handbancers sometimes wore gloves to train in and lots of layers but you always got the odd guy still walking round topless, generally the straps boys they were known as the crazy ones. The windows were not double glazing and they had been broken, usually from the jugglers throwing their juggling balls in anger. We commonly had little birds flying around and trying to find out how to get back out, the lights and heating only came on when it was really cold and dark because of cost but also the lights got broken a few times – again from jugglers getting angry. There are ceiling rafters which all the circus equipment was hung onto which would never happen in the UK due to health and safety but also the jugglers would climb up the walls and walk along it about 30 ft high and place a ball up there just so they could try knocking it off with another juggling ball from the floor, again something that wouldn’t be allowed here in the UK, safety safety safety.

From what I gathered circus was in 9-1 which was students and professionals, after us was professional time and then sports acro but they sometimes trained with us, Shcherbak and Popov were sometimes there when we were but mainly after or before. On a Saturday younger boys about 8-12 would come and train from 12 doing gymnastics, they would always come early so they could throw them self into the pit before their coach came.

One last thing about the space, the toilets are just a hole in the floor, you didn’t really go for many number twos there.

Juggling Slang Lexicon

 

Written by Erik Åberg.

In the recent years I have noticed quite a bit of slang being used in the juggling community. This is an attempt to explain some of it. 

Oldschool – Classical juggling, or something done or presented in a classical way, sometimes also with an undertext that somthing is solid and tested out, proved quality

”Jönssons act is oldschool.”

Newschool – Modern techniques and ideas. In some cases it could refer to bold or risky

”I went to the Polish Convention and there was actually quite alot of newschool shit happening over there.”

Bookwork – Fundamental juggling technique practiced in a correct way. Taking juggling or practice very seriously

”When I started juggling I practiced quite alot but I wish I had done more bookwork.” 

”One positive thing about the WJF is that it makes atleast some kids do more bookwork.”

2-count – To speed something up when someone´s slow,

”Come on Elias, 2 count for fucks sake!”

4-count – To slow down

”Hey, 4-count alittle will you”

IJA – What you´d expect, alittle boring, same as always.

”Did you see the new Indiana Jones movie? Yeah, it was kinda IJA”

Chris passe passe – Not paying attention. Rather do other stuff then what is there or going on. often reffered to audiences, when things are happing in the audience that takes focus away from the show. In some cases it can refer to getting laid or upsetting brittish people.

”You know I was trying to get my street show going but the damn audience was totally Chris passe passe all the time! It was so hard to get the focus!”

Can also be used to someone who was fucking around with something else when they should have paid attention

”You forgot the carkeys? I told you several times to remember them! I told you in the kitchen when you were totally Chris passe passe so I even reminded you after we had breakfast!”

”Elias, don´t be so Chris passe passe, get off the computer, stop cubing and listen to what I have to say!”

”I watched the news but I was pretty Chris passe passe during the weather report since I know I´m gonna be inside doing bookwork all week”

”Slusklund is so happy today, he must have been Chris passe passe last night or something”

Joggling&WJF – Waste of time, kill time

”My flight was late so I was pretty much joggling&WJF in the airport for 3 hours”

”I filled the form in really carefully, then Slusklund spilled his coffee over it so everything I had done was joggling&WJF.” 

”We still need to do joggling&WJF for another hour before the movie starts.”

Russian – Not drop, doing a dropless show

”How did last nights show go? 

Really great, I was totally russian.”

Spanish – Dropping alot. But can also refer to juggling just for fun, for pleasure or for relaxation. In some cases also refering to smoking weed, drinking or chilling out. Not knowing what you´re talking about.

”How´d the show go? 

I was kinda spanish in the beginning but then it was OK”

”Usually my 5 ball pirouette is russian but today it was pretty  spanish”

”Did Slusklund come by practice today? 

Yeah, but he was totally pissed off, called us a bunch of bookwork jerks and said he was gonna go somewhere else and get spanish”

”Jason Garfield thinks he´s bookwork but then you see the siteswap written in the WJF rules and they´re totally spanish so I´m kind of Chris passe passe about that whole thing”

”The situation in Northern Ireland used to be pretty Chris passe passe with the IRA and all, but in the recent years it´s been kinda spanish.”

German – Overly obvious, in a bit stupid way so it´s easy to understand, like wearing a Zorro costume and juggling fencing swords. Could also refer to overly clear juggling in the vein of doing the box to the sound of a clock going ”tic-toc-tic-toc-tic-toc”. Using UV-costumes, UV-props, or lit up props. Doing what someone would expect to see in a show for kids in a shopping mall, but not neccessarily in a negative way. Sometimes also opposite to being french.

”His act is solid and german all the way, he could perform it to sheep and they´d get it”

”My act didn´t really suit that stage, I could totally feel the audience going Chris passe passe. I really need to make it more german if I´m gonna perform places like that.”

French – Alot of  strange stuff going on aside of the juggling, trying to be deep, a bit pretentious or theatrical, using the clothes to become an animal, screaming, dancing or jumping around.

”That show was fucking french.”

Mexican – Juggling fast!

”The beginning of the act was pretty slow but towards the end when the music kicked in it went totally mexican.”

Japanese – Stuff you haven´t seen before, exotic, fresh

”Did you see Slusklunds new club routine? It´s japanese as hell!”

Sushi tricks – New tricks, fresh material, unknown techniques, similar to japanese

”Have you seen Sluskes new club routine? Yeah it was pretty IJA but he´s got a few sushi tricks in there.”

”You saw that french guy at the open stage? He had a few sushi tricks but he´s gotta do more bookwork, it was kinda spanish.”

Adding wasabi – Spice things up, take an idea further, go further out

”I´m kinda happy about my new ball routine but I just need to work on it more and add some wasabi.”

”How´s Wes doing in circus school? He´s allright but he´s gotta add some more wasabi to his research.”

Ninja – Someone that moves well

”He´s juggling technique isn´t so strong but he´s a total ninja. Coupla years of bookwork and he´s gonna be really good.”

Ninjutsu – Dance or dance classes

”When I get into circus school I am planning to do plenty of bookwork plus alot of ninjutsu aswell”

Gatto blood – Someone who´s got solid, high level, classical, oldschool tricks like backcrosses, pirouettes or numbers or potential to become like so. Can be used as ”being Gatto blood” or ”having Gatto blood”

”Did you see Putte´s new routine? 

Yeah, he´s got a few sushi tricks in there plus he´s got plenty of Gatto blood” 

”Do you know Bobbo from Östersund in the north of Sweden? He´s the Gatto blood up there”

Engineering – Manipulation

”I saw this Belgian dude Sander, he´s got some mad engineering skills!”

”Half of my practice session I spend on bookwork but the rest of it is pretty much engineering.” 

”Sluske doesn´t give a fuck about getting Gatto blood, he´s only into engineering these days.”

Engineer – Someone who does manipulation

”He ain´t got much Gatto blood but he´s a pretty decent engineer”

Examples of combinations

Spanish engineering – Droppy manipulation, chilled out manipulation

Japanese engineering – New manipulation not seen before

French engineering – Wierd manipulation probably not so juggling related

”At the end of the act there was some french engineering going on; he put one club up his ass and 2 in his mouth and imitated a moose or something like that.”

Mexican engineering – Fast manipulation

”Did you see Masaki Hiranos 3 ball stuff?  Mexican engeneering”

Chris passe passe in Germany – Not paying attention to something that is REALLY obvious. Being completely up in the blue, close to retarded.

”How on earth could you miss that? Are you Chris passe passe in Germany or something?”

Ten jugglers

Recently I got asked to list ten jugglers that have inspired me. These ten mean a lot to me for a number of reasons.

BUBA – When I saw this guy first time I was amazed. Clever and funny.
Aleksandr Koblikov – This young artist is just amazing. I love the footcatches in the video.
Gregory Popovich – He was one of the first jugglers I ever saw. The video was from a circus, can´t remember which one. There was also an interview where he spoke about the importance of conditioning. Great side summersaults in his devilstickact. (like most russian artists) He inspired me to go for runs, practice acrobatics and to kick from six balls to seven.
Kris Kremo – I was never interested in juggling with hats, cigar boxes or handbags but what he is doing with the balls is simply amazing in my opinion. And I also find him a great entertainer.
Mark and Benji – This number rocked my world a bit when I saw a video a friend of mine filmed at a German youthcircusfestival a year or tow before their big hit in Paris. Loved the odd ideas, the music and of course the juggling. I suppose it inspired me and Rod Laver for the act that we used to do as well. Its also one of the only juggling acts that makes my girlfriend Fofo happy.
Michael Menes – I wanted to be him in the beginning of my career. Not anymore though. But I still like Three round objects.
W.C Fields – Inventor of stuff.
Bobby May – He is probably the most inspiring performer on this list. All the stuff he came up with and the little films he made… Really, really great.
Bernard Kudlak – Formed Cirque Plume and did a fantastic ballbouncingact in one of their early shows.
Anthony Gatto – I remember when he did 7 clubs for a minute in the gym at the convention in York 2000.

It would be great to hear your coments on this one. Also, it would be great to hear about performers that have inspired you.

//Dav

Prop Stands

After my prop building post I thought it might be nice to look at prop stands in the context of juggling routines, they are often over looked but can dramatically change the structure of an act.

I thought it might be interesting to analysis some routines to see what kind of prop stand they use and note some of the positive and negative aspects of their stand. If you know of any interesting examples or points don’t forget to add a comment below.

Before I get too deep on this subject it’s probably best to define what a prop stand is. I’m defining it as an object created for the purpose of holding a performers props, allowing them to quickly or elegantly transition from one prop to another. Fairly simplistic but I think it’s a workable definition.

So first up I’d like to look at Donald Grant’s diabolo act.

http://juggling.tv/1798

I love this act; it’s well choreographed and full of character, one of my favorites. In the act Mr. Grant transitions from using one diabolo to two. His prop stand is either the floor or sometimes an assistant brining on the second diabolo. It works because it’s simple, it doesn’t distract from the performer and gives him a quick transition from one piece to another. The drawback is should you have an act with more props, the stage could become unworkable and if the stage is not level then it could easily cause problems.

Having said that a few months ago Jay Gilligan and Wes Peden released a video called “More Fun Than Visiting a Zoo Volume 2 – Instant Prop Stand” in which they explore the concept of using the props themselves as the prop stands.

The set up required for some of the tricks is slightly mind blowing but besides the practicality it produces some very nice and original work. You can buy the full video download here (and no I’m not on commission!).

Kris Kremo is another favourite of mine so let’s have a look at his work with regards to prop stands.

Kris uses more props than Donald but works around the problem by having his props on a convenient table or ledge usually off stage. This way Kremo avoids having a distracting prop stand on stage, he also doesn’t have to worry about having his prop stand set correctly. The only draw back is he must exit the stage momentarily to change props. However this also helps in the structure of the routine, for a moment the audience doesn’t know if he will return to continue or take his final applause. It’s interesting to note in this fascinating interview with Kris Kremo he mentions his farther, Bela Kremo who taught him much of the act. According to Kris, Bela liked to use a chair as a prop stand because (like the props in his routine) it was an everyday object that the audience was familiar with.

Gandini Juggling, who I occasionally work for, use many different props and have simple methods to store their often large number of props on stage.

For standard small balls they have simple buckets which stop balls rolling about the stage. The only draw back is that it’s difficult for more than 2 performers to access the balls at once. The Gandini glow club stand solution is extremely elegant, the props and stand are displayed to the audience rather then hidden away and are particularly atheistically pleasing. I think this is a great example where the prop stand adds to the routine rather than distracts from it. On a practical note the only downside I know of is that they weigh a fair amount and do not fold down.

http://juggling.tv/633

Dieto another gentleman juggler that has a particularly interesting prop stand. Parts unfold revealing small characters presenting props, very unusual and well crafted. I like that a visit to the prop stand is as entertaining as the juggling and manipulation (which I also really like). Some people will say it’s too gimmicky but personally I love this act and would love to have a prop stand as equally as eccentric!

http://juggling.tv/343

The god father of technical club juggling, Alexander Kiss had some amazing tricks and some very impressive props that bordered on the line of prop stands. My favorite of his was a device which fired clubs into the air (he then perform a trick which has become a measuring stick for many of today’s jugglers; 5 club backcrosses). The magical quality in which he is given his clubs makes you question if he is also just some kind of ingenious machine built in one of the circus workshops behind the Iron curtain in the 1950s that surely existed. Given the tricks that he and his sister (Violetta) performed I would not be massively surprised to find out they were both robots.

http://juggling.tv/163

Evgeni Biljaure (Or Ewgenie/Evgenie Biljaueis depending where you look on the net) is another juggler who pushed the limits of what was thought was possible. 2 ball head bouncing, 5 club forward rolls, 7 rings with a balance, an amazing juggler. In his routine props were thrown to him from all different directions, props flew in from all around the ring. This kept the audience guessing, used the space well and kept the energy of the act up. The only downside to using faceless assistants is you have to trust that the ring boys are paying attention to your act and waiting for their cues, otherwise you might be waiting for that 3rd ball for an awfully long time!

http://juggling.tv/1516

Bert Garden a comedic gentleman juggler, has a automated moving case that appears to interact with him. At one point Garden is even handed a ball from an arm that protrudes from the case in a comical manor. I’d say the main draw back with this particular prop stand is that the performer has to bend over each time to get a new prop. Bending over looks a little unsightly and doesn’t seem to fit well with the character of a gentleman. However I like the idea of the prop stand having a mind of it’s own, it reminds me of ‘The Luggage’ from the marvelous Disk World novels by Terry Pratchett.

More recently Christoph Rummel uses a club firing device in one of his routines. Interesting to have the workings of the device on display, it seems more robotic and less magical, I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

I’d say there is still so a lot of potential in using prop stands in creative ways but building interesting stands can be tricky. If you’d like to learn more perhaps reading this article about implementing a propstand into a routine written by the brilliant Steven Ragatz over a IJDB is a good place to start.

http://twitter.com/#!/CircusGeeks/status/55931704212324352

Juggling vs. Magic

The first section of this essay (the actual Juggling vs. Magic part) is basically an expansion of a post from the internet newsgroup rec.juggling (if you can’t plagiarise yourself, then who can you?): the original thread is here: http://www.jugglingdb.com/news/thread.php?id=185651&group=1&highlight=juggling%2Cmagic . I feel I am further with my understanding of my viewpoint now, and with my reasons for keeping these elements separate in my own work, and thus it seemed like the right time to revisit this theme.

I will be making use of the phrase “hobby” magician or juggler, and I mean no offense with that. It is simply a useful definition (at least for me) of non-performer. I loved it back in the day when I was a hobby juggler and magician…
———————————-
When I was 11 I bought my first magic book.

When I was 14 a juggling book followed.

I recently spent time (Mid-March 2011) in Rotterdam working with a juggler who is creating a new act combining magic and juggling. And this is something which I have worked on with a couple of different people, and at a couple of different times.

Yet all this time, I have refused to create myself an act which combines these 2 artforms.

I am often asked about the idea of juggling vs. magic, and to begin with, I wonder why this question is so often asked. Why juggling vs. magic? Why not juggling vs. trapeze? Or magic vs. opera? Of course, the connection has always been there historically, starting from the jongleurs of the middle ages; but the fact that this question is often asked I think implies some other things. Firstly, that the “magic” in question is in the direction of manipulation and skill-based magic, and also, that there is perhaps some crossover in the kind of person who appreciates practicing these skills. What I mean is, we are basing this topic on skill-based magic, rather than illusions.

A starting point to me seems to be the question I occasionally hear of “why are there more famous magicians than jugglers?”. Well, the famous magicians of old were famous because of their stage shows. And later, for their TV specials (and television of course enabled magic shows to move away from the big old illusion shows, because even small effects can be shown clearly). Add to this the pure strength of the emotional impact of magic, and that generally one can quickly create more material in a shorter time, and we have a pretty simple answer as to why jugglers are less famous than magicians. And also as to why trapeze artists or dog-trainers are less famous than magicians…

I mentioned emotional impact, and although I love juggling more than magic, I have to say that the emotional content which is possible with magic is something that makes it far stronger and more accessible to an audience. I do believe that the strength of genuine emotional contact through magical bafflement can not be reached by juggling. I would go so far as to say that even acrobats and trapeze artists can reach that better than us jugglers can. All a pretty girl has to do is to fall halfway down a rope for the whole of the audience to gasp and miss a breath. It is incredibly difficult to reach that level with juggling, and I can think of no single act that can consistantly get that kind of reaction with any audience. With magic it is the same: some effects can create that gasp, and others simply leave such a large hole in the audiences senses that they are speechless.

The statement “magicians need an audience, jugglers don’t” has been put forward as a key difference between these arts. But there are many hobby magicians who practice just for themselves, and many performing jugglers who don’t neccesarily enjoy juggling in of itself. Whether you need an audience or not depends on the person and what they want, not on the field. Personally speaking: I was a magician before I was a juggler, but I hated performing magic until more recently. I had fun practicing for myself, not in performing. Juggling, on the other hand, I was performing (and enjoying!) 6 months after learning a 3 ball cascade.

What is certainly true, is that the hobby magician learns about performance, whilst the hobby juggler does not. Good performance skills (even if only in theory) are part of magical learning. And good performance in this case simply means precision and clarity. Even if they never perform, a (good) hobby magician is aware of every detail of his skills. Jugglers are often not. I learnt so much good stagecraft from magic. Basic theatre theory and practice, which one doesn’t learn from reading juggling books or going to juggling meetings. Which leads to misdirection…

I find the whole misdirection arguments (“magicians misdirect, jugglers direct”) misleading. Misdirection is a misnomer. It is historically badly named. It should be called direction. And direction is simply good theatre. When I make my Erdnase top-palm in my Poker act, I am not MISDIRECTING attention from my hands. I am DIRECTING attention to somewhere else. And I am (trying to!) direct attention to one single specific point every moment that I am standing on stage. Whether I am juggling, performing magic, or clapping in the finale, I am trying to get the audience to react to me in a certain way, and to shift their focus because of that. To repeat myself, (hobby) magicians learn this as a matter of course: (hobby) jugglers do not.

So are there any similarities? Apparently yes, if only because of all the people (myself included) who enjoy both fields. The biggest part is probably the skills involved. It is a reasonably special set of people who get off on practicing juggling, close-up magic or stage manipulation (or Rubik’s Cube, dice-stacking, Sport Stacking, yo-yo, kendama etc etc). So there is presumably a mental set-up which is required to do these things well (and which also, presumably, aids in an interest in writing (and reading) boring essays on the subject…).

So, given these differences and similarities: WHY DO I HAVE SUCH A STRONG IMPULSE AGAINST COMBINING THEM IN MY OWN WORK???

My performance work consists basically of my “straight” (non-funny) 6 minute juggling act, to music. And then of about 30 minutes total “funny” speaking material, of which around 20 minutes is magic acts. I have always had that distinction: magic is speaking, juggling is not. Which makes sense for my magic history (close-up was my first love, classically always performed speaking), but not for my juggling (my first performing was comedy street shows). But at some point in my development, it was important for me to make that distinction, perhaps to push myself stronger in the Varieté direction that I love so much.

But still, why not then make a music based act on juggling and magic? Well, firstly, I don’t “need” a second act to music with juggling. If anything, then I should work on my magic act to music (I have had a semi-finished manipulation act for quite some time now). But there must be a more fundamental reason.

I love simplicity. Simple images, simple props, simple statements of intent. Perhaps I am scared that having TWO (oh my God, think of it!) skills on display would be too complicated or confusing. Is he a juggler? Or a magician? Again, not such a strong reason…

Actually, my work in Rotterdam was the first time that I began to understand and imagine a way to combine these two arts. The student managed to make some magic material which was ONLY POSSIBLE because of his juggling technique. So simple, but a breakthrough, at least for me. My problem was revealed to be the logic that was always missing to me. Why juggle three balls, and then have them vanish and reappear? Well, who cares “why”, AS LONG AS THE TECHNIQUE IS RELEVANT!

I feel so stupid that that simple link has for so long eluded me: especially as that thesis is one of the fundamental statements within my performing. I still don’t know why I have put up those walls between my juggling world and my magic world, but slowly I start to tunnel through.

(Cologne, December 2007 / Seattle, March 2011)