Juggling festivals are simply wonderful and one in my hometown, NYC, at my graduate school alma mater, Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, is frankly, da joint. (Those of you familiar with the Brooklyn alphabet will know exactly what I’m referring to.)
Emma, my 9 year old daughter, and I went for Saturday, March 29th only.
The floor was filled with 5 club, 7 ball and ring jugglers, and folks doing outrageous passing patterns and feeds. There was one young woman who was doing an incredible 5 club routine including backcrosses, under the leg and placing one club out of the 5 into a chin balance, continuing with 4 and then dropping the club back into a 5 club juggle. A friend commented, “yeah but can she cook?” to which I replied, “who cares, I can”.
At last years festival there were no unicycles allowed in the gym. I had to stash mine in the security office for the day. This year a floor covering was put down in one section to allow for unicycles. Of course, I had left mine at home.
The only unicycles I saw in the gym during the day belonged to an 11 year old girl who I had seen at the Phillyfest; she was at that time just starting to ride unassisted; she is now tooling all over and I believe she is starting to freemount. She and Emma spent a good part of the day together juggling and being silly. There was also a girl who looked to be about 7 or so on a 16" unicycle who rode very competently.
The last was Anthony Shave (juggler133) who is one half of Perpetual Motion. He was practicing for the show later that evening and shamelessly showing off and deliberately making me jealous. (Anthony, if you’re out there I hope the hair on half your head falls out.)
For me personally the highlight of the day was finally nailing putting a club into a chin balance out of a 3 club juggle. Ok, it’s pathetic, I know, but there it is.
Awesome! Incredible. Stupendous.
The skill level simply can’t be beat. Three internationally know names stand out: Albert Lucas, Tony Duncan, and Jay Gilligan.
Albert Lucas known for his numerous numbers juggling world records also, much to my surprise, does a very technical but glitzy Vegas style performance. Clubs, balls, rings and mouth juggling; all with a 60s style casino musical accompaniment. And what can you say when you see a guy who has a trick named after him doing that trick? (Alberts) He does a very cool routine with 3 balls and 3 billiards type pockets attached to a belt, one on each side and one on the back. He juggles and tosses the balls up and catches them, for the most part blind.
Jay Gilligan is, for want of a better desciption, the Pete Townsend of juggling. Smashing and throwing clubs all about, he does a fast technical routine with balls, clubs and rings. His presentation is both sullen and ironic and extremely captivating. Each succeeding routine seems to be randomly chosen and executed while displaying extreme precision. He does pirouttes with 3 clubs catching two behind is back and continuing to juggle them all with one arm all the way behind his back. Splits and multiplexes with 4 and 5 clubs. He also did a routine with just 3 rings sometimes juggled, sometimes simply slipping on and off various body parts, all done deadpan and precise.
Tony Duncan did a phenomenal contact juggling routine starting with 3 balls and building to 6. The looked to be small, perhaps 1 1/2 inch diameter balls which he twirled through his fingers, up his arms, exchanging through his fingers, all very slow and very beautiful.
Other highlights included a great hula hoop act and a very beautiful diablo routine peformed by a fellow who has clearly also studied dance; this act in particular was flawless.
We were very fortunate to have the King Charles Unicycle Troupe perform. I will be spoiling some of the comedy bits, so don’t read on if that’s a problem. This troupe does their entire act on unicycle; they were at one time members of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus. They do a lot of fast paced formation riding (tightly on a small stage), basketball passing, rope jumping and comedy. One rider comes out, anachronistically (well from a fashion perspective), sporting a rather large afro, which later turns out to be a wig. During the routine a couple of riders leap from their unis and do rim grabbing slam dunks. The rope jumping is a highlight as it begins with all six riders doing rapid synchronized skipping. They then set up for some double dutch whereupon the rider who is about to jump falls hard to the ground. After it becomes clear this was intended a stretcher is brought out and yep, you guessed, it rushes his unicycle off to the hospital. He then goes into the double dutch and is later joined by another troupe member; they then do very quick synchonized skipping. Very exciting. The act ends with more formation riding this time with one member on a giraffe.
The other unicycling in the show was done by Anthony during Perpetual Motions performance. Again they did the bit where Anthony juggles while idling and Chuck leap frogs over him and steals the pattern. This always gets a huge reaction. I wonder if the “general public” reacts as enthusiastically to it or if a juggling/unicycling audience, knowing how difficult it is gives the bigger applause. Anthony? Anthony also does a bit where he idles, holds a club in a chin balance and does a 3 club juggle. All through it he and Chuck do a host of complex passing patterns starting with 6 and working up to what, 8 or 9. At that point I can’t even count. These guys really rock. For a juggling audience they work on the edge and while they drop a fair bit, the patterns they produce are really extraordinary to see.
The 2 1/2 hour show cost $10 a head.
Good seats at Cirque du Soleil: $95. The Big Apple Circus: $44; Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey: $45.50.
(Yes, I know the performers, for the most part, don’t get paid at festivals, but that’s what makes them the poor man’s circus.)
All that and great New York city pizza right down the block.
A truly superior day.
Davids Stone and Kaplan were there and, I’m sure, will have additional comments.
Oh yeah, it wouldn’t do not to thank the Carmine Street Irregulars and the juggling club at Pratt Institute for doing a terrific job and making this years festival way better than last years (which was great, as well).