By Kyle Petersen

NYC Uni Fest!

There are many great reasons to ride a unicycle. It’s great aerobic exercise (have you ever seen a fat unicyclist?) It’s a lot less expensive and has fewer unnecessary parts than a bicycle (what the heck is a derailleur, anyway?) And it’s a great way to attract potential love interests (ok, I made that one up).

Unicycles have been featured on talk shows (Leno, Letterman), cartoons (SpongeBob SquarePants), and have been ridden by peace makers (Peter Tosh) and war makers (Donald Rumsfeld).

The best reason, however, to ride a unicycle these days is the upcoming New York City Unicycle Festival!

That’s right, the first-ever New York City Unicycle Festival is taking the Big Apple by storm this Labor Day weekend. The event lasts from Friday the 3rd through Sunday the 5th, and has three distinct locations.

Sept. 3rd – Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has declared September 3rd Unicycle Day in Brooklyn, and the mono-wheelers plan on making their presence felt in the Borough of Kings. The Brooklyn segment of the festival will feature a long-distance ride from Brooklyn Bridge to Coney Island. Organizers recommend at participants wear helmets and use 26 inch wheels or larger. Participants will arrive in Coney Island by 6 pm where there will be free riding, fireworks, and activities to be announced. Best yet, the first 40 registered participants will get a free ride on the famous Deno’s Wonder Wheel on the Coney Island Boardwalk.

Sept. 4th – Governors Island

Governors Island is one of New York City’s unique treasures. A former military instillation with many historic buildings, the island is now open as a public park every weekend in the summer. The festival begins at noon on Governors Island and runs until 5pm. Planned activities include a massive ride around the island, unicycle basketball, hockey, races, prizes, a group photo, and an outstanding demonstration from the legendary King Charles Troupe.

Sept. 5th – Grant’s Tomb

The burial place of Civil War General and Former President Ulysses S. Grant is also the home of the New York Unicycle Club. Participants  will meet at 1pm at Grant’s Tomb for a four-hour free riding session. Street parking is available.

Additional information can be found at the New York City Unicycle Festival website. Look forward to seeing you there!

By Kyle Petersen

This week’s Video Friday features Vietnamese hat juggling legend Tuan Le. Tuan’s carefully choreographed act features outstanding vaudevillian-style manipulation with 21st century technique. Tuan’s skill, stage presence, and enthusiasm for the variety arts make this unique juggling act a joy to behold.


By Kyle Petersen

Three youths juggling in Brazil

Under even the best of circumstances, street performing is a challenging way to make a living. Performers have to carry heavy props to locations across metropolitan areas, and require hours of practice to develop a well-honed routine. Performers also must contend with a myriad of distractions; extreme sun, sudden wind and rain, emergency sirens and competing street performers can all ruin a show and cost performers money. Street performers in the United States and Europe, however, benefit from high-traffic tourist areas in many cities where foreigners with deep pockets are all too glad to hand over a couple of dollars in exchange for a few tricks and a smile.

The same cannot be said for street jugglers throughout the third world. With fewer tourist areas and higher jobless rates, street performers in developing countries often face cut-throat competition for meager pay. While there are many well-polished variety artists in the third world, jugglers in countries like Brazil and Mexico must also compete with young upstarts who learn a three-ball cascade and quickly hit the streets in an effort to make a quick buck.

Because many cities in the developing world lack open public spaces, street jugglers often perform at traffic lights. A recent article by Reuters describes the experiences of Fabiano Cordeiro, a 26-year-old juggler and unicyclist living in Sao Paulo, Brazil:

In front of halted traffic, Cordeiro stays in one spot and whirls his burning torches in perfect circles in the dark. Then he leaps off the cycle in time to run between the lines of vehicles with his outstretched hat.

Some drivers reach for their small change. Others stare intently ahead, ignoring the wiry juggler in a striped T-shirt, shorts and black braces.

“I was once given 50 reais ($28.34) in Brasilia,” he said with a grin at the memory, “but 2 reais is more common.”

Life on the streets in Latin America can be extremely perilous. Street performers not only have to contend with dangerous traffic under stoplights but they also are easy targets for robbers because they live on the streets and they carry cash. Guillermo de la Kausa, a street performer and artist who videos and photographs other street performers he encounters, explains via email (translated from Spanish):

I am in the street juggling, I live off the coins that they give me at the traffic light and this is how I pay for my food and my hotel. On the street, you are exposed to many dangers. They robbed me of my belongings and I lost my video camera and because of that I can no longer record [the street performers I encounter].

To experience Latin American street performing first hand, watch as a Peruvian man juggles knives on his tall unicycle as oncoming traffic whizzes by (video courtesy of Arte Callejero Sin Fronteras):

Jugglers Daniel Valderrama Gallego and Gabriel Gomez show off their skills in locations throughout the Colombian capitol of Bogota:

Do you have any experiences with street performing in Latin America? Please feel free to contact us via Facebook, Twitter, or by posting a comment below.

Our New Stage Lite Balls

Dubé Juggling is proud to announce our newest product line, the Stage Lite Ball. The Stage Lite combines our traditional low-bounce hard shell Stage Ball with our ever-popular LED Lighted Ball. The result is an excellent and extremely visible juggling ball for on-stage performance.

Available in both 3.5 inches and 4 inches, the Stage Lite comes in green, blue, red and white, as well as the three-color strobe and the color change, which cycles slowly between five colors.

Each Stage Lite Ball is powered by three button cell batteries (included) which have an average life of 10-20 hours.

So weather you’re looking to expand your stage repertoire , or simply looking for something fun to juggle in the dark, the Stage Lite is an excellent choice for performer and hobbyist alike!

By Kyle Petersen

Fushigi: something fishy...

By now, the contact juggling community has been set aflame by the “Fushigi Magic Gravity Ball”, a contact juggling ball that has been rebranded and mass marketed.  The product is featured on nationally televised advertisements which show video of  professional contact jugglers intertwined with beginners demonstrating extremely basic maneuvers. In between these demonstrations are testimonials from everyday people, including one teenybopper who exclaims, “Fushigi! Like, I don’t even know what it is, but it’s like, the coolest thing ever, and I can do it!”

But does the Fushigi mean the death of contact juggling as we know it? Past history suggests the answer is no. Just as the Sham-Wow did not replace the everyday dishrag and the Showtime Rotisserie (“Set it, and forget it!”) did not replace the oven, the Fushigi Ball will most likely go the way of countless other As-Seen-On-TV products and simply fade away. That doesn’t mean there isn’t cause for alarm.

What is so outrageous and upsetting to many in the contact juggling community is that the Fushigi has cheapened the entire art form. It has now made it into a “trick” that anyone can do. While I do not consider myself a contact juggler, I do use a little bit of contact juggling in my act. At a recent performance, I was appalled when a chorus of children began yelling out “He’s cheating! He’s using a Fushigi!” after I pulled out a 3.5 inch red stage ball and demonstrated some basic body rolls. I was upset, but some people are devastated. Jonathan of Street Juggling even went so far as to say that he’d never use acrylic contact juggling balls again.

While we love that the Fushigi has brought contact juggling to a wider audience, we feel their business practices are unethical and that their advertisement completely misrepresents the product. They have taken an existing product, renamed it, claimed it was brand new, and then warned consumers to beware of imitators. They have labeled the ball as a “Magic Gravity Ball”, even though it isn’t magic, and doesn’t defy gravity (technically, it is a ball, so partial credit is due). They have intertwined professionals and people off the street in their commercial to create the misleading illusion that any Tom, Dick or Harry can instantly master even the most advanced tricks.

The bottom line is this: we commend the makers of Fushigi for their business acumen, if not for their business ethics. While the Fushigi represents a major challenge to the contact juggling community, it is the responsibility of the contact juggling community to rise above. We worry that the community will respond either with defeatism or by lashing out in anger. Neither response is constructive or appropriate. The public’s sudden and new-found interest in the Fushigi is a golden opportunity for those in the contact juggling community to reach a broader audience, educate the public, and redefine the art of contact juggling as they see it.


By Kyle Petersen

Hyoga!

Hyoga the Juggling Dragon

In a recent blog post entitled “Turning Japanese“, we featured some of the most far-out and insane juggling acts to come out of the island nation of Japan. One of the acts featured was Hyoga, a large, yellow dragon who juggles everything from balls to devil sticks. Hyoga is closely associated with another well-known juggler, Japanese cigar box master Ryuhan. Because Ryuhan is a friend of the store, we contacted him to arrange an interview with Hyoga.

Kyle Petersen: Where are you from?

Hyoga: I’m from the island called Seika which does not exist in this world. I don’t know why I’m here, maybe my friend magician failed his magic test of warp.

Kyle: I hate it when that happens. What type of creature are you? Dinosaur, dragon, reptile?

Hyoga: I’m yellow dragon. The audience says “Oh, Pokemon!” so often, but it’s not true! I tell them, “I’m a dragon!”

Kyle: To be fair, you do kinda look like a Pokemon, though we’re not really sure what a Pokemon is to begin with anyway. How did you learn to juggle? Who taught you?

Hyoga: In Seika, I was working as dragon of a dragon rider, but Seika became boring. So started studying juggling by myself. After I came to this world, I studied with Ryuhan. I mimicked Ryuhan and the other jugglers. In these days, I learn by watching youtube! I respect humans because there are so many good jugglers!”

Kyle: We agree, humans tend to be the best jugglers. What is your favorite object to juggle? Cigar box, devil stick, diabolo, balls?

Hyoga: My favorite object to juggle is balls, because I can do it everywhere. Ryuhan is good cigar box juggler, so I like it, too. Also, I like clubs because I can do passing with the human juggler. I like diabolo, devil stick, too… After all, I like every object!

Kyle: Are you married? Is there a Mrs. Hyoga?

Hyoga: Well… I have girlfriend, but not married yet. Her name is Magma. By the way, Hyoga means glacier in Japanese. Our names are related flowing objects!

Kyle: We would love to see the two of you pass clubs someday. We think Ryuhan is a pretty good juggler. Are you friends with Ryuhan? What is he like?

Hyoga: Yes, Ryuhan is one of my friends. I’m living with him now. He is a good juggler, but every day he goes to the job (He is not a professional juggler) and after the job, he plays video games. I think he become better juggler if he practice more hard. By the way, when I perform in the show, every time I can’t find Ryuhan! Why doesn’t he come to see my show?

Kyle: We’re sure he’ll come to your show soon, he’s probably just busy! Thank you for your time Hyoga, and thank you Ryuhan for setting up this very special interview.

Hyoga: You are welcome!

Watch Hyoga in action below:

By Kyle Petersen

We all know that the iPhone allows you to figuratively juggle (talk on the phone, send an e-mail, check your account balance and find a good mechanic), but did you know the iPhone can help you literally juggle as well? Since it was first unveiled in 2007, a small handful of juggling-related applications have been released. Here’s a look at three of the most popular:

iJuggle

iJuggle

The iJuggle application is nifty, but isn’t really anything new. It is basically a siteswap simulator which allows you to program different siteswap combinations and watch them in animated form. While there are a couple of programs with similar functions, this one appears to be the best. Some cool features: it allows you to switch between synchronous and asynchronous patterns, and even lets you animate any siteswap as a mills mess pattern. We hope Steve Mills is getting royalty payments for this! Best yet, it’s 100% free! Definitely worth downloading, but by no means a “must have”.

Juggling Progress Tracker

Juggling Progress Tracker

We, like just about everybody, love Vova Galchenko. Not only is he one of the best jugglers on the planet, but he’s also a heck of a nice guy. We’re just not sure what to make of his newest venture, the Juggling Progress Tracker application for the iPhone. The app allows you to set goals for yourself and track your practice sessions. For example, if you are practicing 5 ball mills mess, it allows you to set a goal (say, 50 catches), and update your progress into a database. It then makes a line graph for you. Then, when you set a new personal record, it lets you update your followers via Twitter. We like the concept and the ingenuity, but we also think learning 5 ball mills mess is complicated enough without adding Twitter into the mix.

Juggle!

Juggle!

Ok, this is only loosely associated with juggling, but it sure is cool. It’s a game, similar to pong, where you use a paddle to keep balls in the air. The more balls you keep in the air, the more points you get. It sounds simple, but… the colors! There’s something soothing, almost hypnotizing about this game… Brian got addicted just watching me play. This game will not help you learn to juggle, but it will help you find a warm, happy place if you’re having a bad day. Must have.

Is there an app we left out? Please, let us know!

By Kyle Petersen

When most people think of the variety arts, they think of music, acrobatics, manipulation (juggling, for example), clown, mime, dance, animal acts, illusions and other traditional routines found in circuses around the world. There is, however, a seedier side of the variety arts. Acts that feature the crude, obscene, frightening and supernatural fall under the category of sideshow.

“Sideshow is like magic’s sleazier older brother”, says Jared Rydelek, a sideshow performer and contortionist who started his career as an illusionist. According to Jared, “the difference between magic and sideshow is that in magic, the performer is deceiving the audience, whereas in sideshow, the performer is doing something that seems like an illusion, but is actually real.”

Sideshow acts can be broken down into several categories. Freak acts (which include both born freaks and created freaks), working acts (acts that involve a performer demonstrating an acquired skill), and oddities shows, which would include unusual stuffed animals and bizarre historical memorabilia.

One of the most recognizable sideshow routines is the Human Blockhead, an act in which the performer sticks a long and pointy object (usually a long nail) up his or her nose. Keith Nelson’s “Kendama Blockhead” routine is a variation of this act. Other traditional sideshow acts include knife throwing, straight jacket escape, glass walking and eating, juggling dangerous objects (knives, fire, etc).

Though sideshow has declined in popularity since its peak in the days of vaudeville, it is experiencing a modern resurgence. The famed Coney Island Sideshow is still going strong, featuring colorful performers like Donny Vomit, Serpentina, Scott Baker and Heather Holliday. Take a look at the Coney Island Sideshow in action below.

By Kyle Petersen

Last night Keith Nelson of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus made history. For years, Keith has attempted a trick called the Kendama Blockhead without success.

Kendama, for those who don’t know, is a Japanese toy involving a cup and a ball attached to a string. The term “blockhead” refers to the art of shoving long pointy objects up one’s nose. The premise behind the trick is simple. Keith shoves the kendama up his nose, then flips his head up and catches the ball on the cup.

For two years, Keith has failed to complete the Kendama Blockhead. That is, at least, until last night. Hat tip to Jim Moore for all his dedication in documenting the variety arts in New York City.

Kendama Blockhead Completed by Keith Nelson from Jim Moore on Vimeo.

Earlier this week we encouraged you to send us your juggling videos, and send us your best. Jason Donnelly immediately submitted his 10 ball flash, 3 ways. Watch it, believe it, and send us your videos if you can beat it!

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