2014 IJA Festival HLGBCS

For those who aren’t familiar with the term HLGBCS, it is a traditional way to review a juggling festival. You list your highs, lows, goals, banes, crushes, and surprises to sum up your experience at the fest. Having just returned from this year’s IJA Festival at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, here is mine… It mentions a lot of people; I’ll try to find the time to tag them/link to their pages.

Helping backstage at the championships. This was my third year acting as contestant liaison, helping in the green room, and making sure things run smoothly between the green room and stage. It is always a rewarding experience, but this year in particular provided a few wonderful moments. Seeing Jack Denger finally win juniors after a few tries, and seeing some of the other contestants genuinely happy for him and cheering for him. Seeing Delaney Bayles kill it, and remind me so much of Jack his first time around. Give her another try with the experience of having done it before, and she’s going to be scary good. Similarly, seeing Galen and Ellen win Teams after a few tries. I love them as people, and they are really gifted jugglers. I’ll confess I haven’t always fully absorbed their act in past years; I thought this year was indeed their best yet. More accessible, and really creative. Seeing my friend Thom have the courage to try something so off the beaten path in the Individuals, and be rewarded with a medal. And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen unbridled joy like I did at the moment when Kota was announced as the winner; if they could bottle up that moment and market it to people having a bad day, they’d make millions. SO much fun.

The Michael Karas 3 ring workshop. I only managed to sneak out for a couple of workshops, but I’m really glad this was one of them. It was listed as a way to learn 10 tricks, but he probably covered closer to 15 tricks during the hour he had. Most were very accessible and interesting; I have lots to work on now that I actually get to juggle.

When the week gets so busy with workshops, it is easy for me to focus on how little juggling I get to do, and lose track of how much quality time I get to spend with friends. Too many to list, both old and new. Ross Berenson. Thom Wall. Warren and Bekah Hammond. Emmanuel Boisse Pinard. Sofia Noethe. Erin Stephens. Sam Malcolm. Geoff Marsh. Jen Slaw. Ken Mallon (welcome to your 1st fest!). Cassie McKenney (nice to meet you!). VivecaGregoryBenjaminNoelCodyChelseaSeanKevinKatDominiqueCurt. And on and on and on. I may not have juggled much, but I laughed a ton.

I don’t do much juggling that really talented jugglers really care about. But I do a 3 ring trick people like; a slide to a balance. For a while now I’ve been trying to figure out which world class ring jugglers can do this trick reliably, but I haven’t been finding anyone. I went to IJA assuming Patrik was the answer, but he joined the list of people who said the trick is too unpredictable. Michael Karas as well. By the time the fest ended, the only person left to check off the list is Joe Showers, because I’ve heard he is good at it. But I also was so inspired by what I saw at the festival that I went from, “Whew. So I guess it isn’t possible to do it reliable, and I can let myself off the hook.” to “Cool, so perhaps I can actually do the work to be the only person who can do it reliably.”

Missing the busking competition. I had a really nice dinner Friday night (see below), but it led to me missing the busking competition entirely. I have a soft spot for the busking competition after running it in Rochester, so I was really bummed not to see how this one turned out, especially since I knew all 4 competitors and the organizer.

Renegade acts are always a crapshoot. But this fest in particular there was way more ‘crap’ than ‘shoot’. There certainly were some good/fun acts, and all 3 hosts did their best to make something of a rough situation. But people are using really poor judgement with regard to what other people will want to watch. Many of those same acts lack the judgement to know when to bail out and pull the ripcord.

I’m disappointed in the visibility/publicity of the workshop schedule. It was supposed to appear in the program, but somehow fell through the cracks. I tried to publicize the schedule and the mobile app via the Workshops table, but it didn’t work well enough. Even at the end of the week, I was still meeting people who didn’t know how to figure out what workshops were happening, or about the mobile app at all. I think the mobile app was at least as good as in past years, but we had significantly fewer users of it than last year. Discussions were had, lessons were learned.

And the elephant in the room. The whole Steve Mills situation was awful. Good, kind, hard working people were made to feel unsafe, unappreciated, and unhappy at a juggling festival, of all places. Too much has been said of this situation, particularly in public, particularly by people who are making assumptions based on rumor or inaccurate information. But I am going to say that crap like this takes away from what should be a fun-filled escape for attendees, and it gives people an excuse to regurgitate dated, unfair, inaccurate generalizations about the IJA. I don’t want to talk about this at length, but I want to say in no uncertain terms: Cody and Erin were in the right in this situation. I’m proud of them for being unreasonably patient in trying to make the situation work, I’m infinitely grateful for all the work they did and the nonsense they put up with to try to put on a good festival, and I’m really sorry that they were unable to properly enjoy the festival for the party it is.

Compete in XJuggling. Check! I competed in 3 rings, actually hit my trick, and got lots of good feedback. While I didn’t realize it at the time, Bill Barr actually pointed out that I was almost surely the oldest competitor. Rawr.

Attend Richard Kennison’s special workshop. Check! I left the workshop table long enough to attend both days of this, and it was well worth it. Richard gave advice that might actually help my juggling, but more importantly gave me lots of food for thought as a juggling teacher. He also assured me that my juggling form is really quite good, which makes it all the more baffling how I manage to drop so much :-)

Run a successful workshop schedule. Check! Signups started slow, but by the time the dust cleared we had 66 instructors and somewhere around 120 workshops. The space wasn’t optimal, but people made the best of what we had. I of course couldn’t have done this without the help of so many others; thanks!!

Respectable performance in Games. Failed miserably. Dropped 5 balls within about 10 seconds. Got distracted and missed a Biz Says very early on that was not even tricky. Did tolerably well in 5 ring endurance. Club Balance is usually my best event, and I managed to mess up on the first trick. I know I have trouble balancing on one foot; why didn’t I practice it beforehand?

Lead my third panel discussion workshop on How to Make a Living Through Juggling. Failed. With so much to do before the fest, this just never popped to the top of my to-do list.

5 clubs. Late in the week I realized that I’d been so busy with workshops I hadn’t even touched my clubs. So I took them out, and 10 or 15 minutes later put them back away in frustration. I understand I don’t practice enough to make rapid, steady progress, but I really am stunned how little progress I make on 5 clubs.

Dining options. This was definitely an achilles heel of this particular fest site. But when I added in the constraints of running workshops, dining was really rough. After being up late most nights, I really had to get up to get to the dining hall by 8:30, despite it being mediocre food and surprisingly expensive. Without a car, most other options would have required a good 40 minutes of round trip walking, and I had to be in the gym in time to prepare for 10am workshops. I did manage to get a few interesting or decent meals, thanks to friends with cars.

Patrik Elmnert. I probably could have told you this one before the fest started. He’s one of my favorite jugglers, and the act he did in CoS is pretty much my favorite act. I had asked him earlier in the week if he was doing that particular act, and due to some miscommunication he said no. So when the curtain went up and I saw that prop setup, I lost my mind. Beyond just his incredible juggling and artistry, he’s a super nice guy, and I heard nothing but positive feedback on his special workshop, even though I know he taught it while sick and feeling like crap.

Gena. Our paths hadn’t crossed before. Aside from being an incredible juggler and performer, and a lovely woman, she turns out to be incredibly charming, helpful, and a lot of fun. Her workshops was entertaining and educational, despite my lack of ability. The time I spent hanging out in the gym after CoS with Gena, Ross Berenson, Jen Slaw, and others was full of laughter, and one of the highlights of my week.

Emman. I hadn’t seen him since Turbo in 2011, but even with his hands all jacked up, he still casually did ring tricks that were absolutely killer. He kept apologizing for winning the 3 ring XJuggling. Dude, you’re a better ring juggler than me in your sleep. I’ve got no problem losing to someone better than me; if I don’t like it, I should practice more :-)

Vladik. I somehow didn’t know much of anything about Vladik going into the fest, other than smarter people than me were very excited to see him. He jumped right into his workshop before I located him; it was very well attended, he had a smile a mile wide, and it was really well done. When I later saw him in the gym running 6 wooden clubs in various unlikely patterns, and then running 7, my jaw dropped. Knowing how much I love Patrik’s act, it would have been easy for me to tune out once it ended. But Vladik’s CoS act was *so* energetic and skillful, it definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. A great way to end a great show.

Luna Breeze. Many festivals I’ve attended have included a hooping act in their show, and while I like the idea, I’ve been almost uniformly disappointed. So I wasn’t optimistic going into the CoS, but Luna’s act was a breath of fresh air. Very professional, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Renewed my faith.

Friday night dinner. I was invited to dinner at a steak house with a somewhat large group, some of whom I knew well, others of which I didn’t know at all. I gather this is something of a tradition, but one I hadn’t taken part in before. It was a really nice break from the lackluster dining of the week. Good food, and good company.

Thanks to everyone who made this a memorable fest. For anyone who hasn’t been to a Turbo Fest, they know how to put on an amazing party up there in Quebec City. Combine an IJA fest and the Quebec City Turbo experience, and that’s some serious wonder twin powers activation. Get your passport, save up, and get there next year. Hopefully I’ll see you there!

Kyle Johnson: Gballz and Multiplexes

Kyle is a friend of mine, my former juggling instructor, and was a great help teaching with me at The Nueva School. He is also sponsored by Gballz, and put out this incredible video recently where he takes his Gballz for a spin. Kyle is more commonly known for juggling large Dube’ stage balls, so this video is full of crazy multiplex tricks that aren’t really feasible with stage balls but become possible (for him…) with beanbags. Enjoy!

Numbers Rings Madness: 10, 11, and 12 Rings

So recently, Junming Lin posted the following video of him doing a 12 ring flash.

Crazy, right? As you can see, part of the challenge is just launching that many rings to begin with. My biggest stumbling block in trying to learn 7 is that I’m finding it very difficult to cleanly release 4 rings from one hand. As you can see in the video, Junming approaches this by starting with 4 in each hand, then 2 in hip holsters at his sides, and 2 in his mouth. His pattern is synchronous, meaning that he is throwing from both hands at the same time.

Shortly afterwards, Pavel Evsukevich released this video. Pavel is one of my favorite jugglers to watch these days, and also happens to be an incredibly nice guy. I met him and got to spend some time with him at the 2012 IJA Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Pavel is choosing to launch 5 from each hand, with 2 rings in hip holsters to start. But he also demonstrates a 10 ring qualify, 10 rings with a balance, 13 catches of 11 rings, and perhaps most incredibly an 11 ring flash with a ring head balance. You’ll also notice Pavel does all of these asynchronously, meaning his hands throw out of synch with each other. Not necessarily better or worse, but different.

Ryan Mellors: Using Motion to Spice Up Your Act

This video by Ryan Mellors is a great example of how you take what could have been a relatively standard juggling video, and by adding movement and style you turn it into something much more. If you study dance or gymnastics, think about how you could incorporate it into your juggling to make your juggling more interesting. If you don’t, but you enjoy juggling, think about whether dance might give you a whole new perspective on things.

Slight language warning: I noticed at least one inappropriate word in the soundtrack to this video, and I usually try to steer clear of such things when sharing videos with students. In this case I decided not to let that stop me from sharing an otherwise really interesting video. Just be forewarned.

New Props Have Arrived

As you can probably tell from all the other new posts, the newest batch of “for sale to my students” props has arrived from Higgins Brothers. If you are a student of mine and you see something you want, send me an email or tell me in class. All items are first-come-first-served. I may not always lug all this stuff to ever class, so if you let me know via email before class, it greatly increases the odds that I’ll have your prop to you as soon as possible.  If you are not one of my students, these new props will not be available for purchase; my policy on this sort of thing can be read here.

You’ll notice that the clubs in particular, while still way below retail prices, are not as inexpensive as ones I’ve offered in the past. That is more a reflection on the older items; I had managed to get a set of really nice clubs at a ridiculously low price. That is why people snatched those up so quickly, and I’m now only able to offer clubs at a really good price instead of a completely insane price.


For Sale: PX3 Floro Clubs (Blue) – $50/set

These PX3 clubs are great for your first set of real clubs, and are nearly indestructible. They have molded handles, meaning they are more like a plastic tube than a thin piece of plastic wrapped around the core. I’m selling them as a matching set of 3. The retail price on these would be $78/set.

This item was purchased at a discounted rate for resale to my students. Please read here for an explanation of my sale terms.
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For Sale: PX3 Pirouette Clubs (Various Colors) – $65/set

The Pirouette is a really good multipiece club. It is exactly the same as the popular PX3 Vegas clubs (like the ones I use), but not decorated. They have wrapped handles, and colored knobs/caps that match the body color.  I’m selling matching sets of 3 in various colors. The retail price on these would be $105 a set.

This item was purchased at a discounted rate for resale to my students. Please read here for an explanation of my sale terms.


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For Sale: Taibolo Glary Diabolo with Aluminum Handsticks (Various Colors) – $32

The Taibolo Glary diabolo is a very solid non-bearing diabolo. It is not overly soft or hard, and comes in various tranlucent colors. Each diabolo comes with a set of aluminum handsticks. The retail price for this diabolo/handstick pair would be $54.95.

This item was purchased at a discounted rate for resale to my students. Please read here for an explanation of my sale terms.


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For Sale: Higgins Spanky Balls (Various Colors) – $15/set

These are Higgins Brothers Spanky Juggling Balls – 130g, 2.5 inch. Half the panels are vinyl, the other half leatherette. I am selling them in matching sets of 3, in various colors. Note that the blue in particular is a really dark blue. The retail price for these would be $33/set plus shipping.

This item was purchased at a discounted rate for resale to my students. Please read here for an explanation of my sale terms.

Blue/White (I have two sets):


For Sale: Higgins Rings (Various Colors) – $10/set

These are Higgins Brothers brand rings. At this point I have one set left, with one yellow ring, one blue ring, and one “red” ring. Note that the “red” isn’t exactly “red”; it is more orange-y. I’d also note that the blue looks darker in the picture than in real life. All the colors are pretty neon-ish. The retail price for a set of 3 would be $16.50 plus shipping.

This item was purchased at a discounted rate for resale to my students. Please read here for an explanation of my sale terms.


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