by Naomi Donabedian

Cirque Du Soleil, the legendary French-Canadian circus entertainment company, has landed on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Audiences have come to regard Cirque’s shows as a blend of whimsical story telling, costumes, and sets populated by impossibly talented circus artists. Banana Shpeel, running from May until the end of August 2010, retreats from Cirque’s tented surreal history and steps uptown to New York City’s glamorous Beacon Theater.

Banana Shpeel is a vaudeville show within a Cirque show with a twist of ironic self-awareness. In one scene, as a flamboyant mime pranced across the stage, the cynical cigar-chomping lead Schmelky quipped that the ladee-dah French are into that kind of thing–a jab at Cirque’s artsy reputation. Perhaps the creators are aware of their Manhattan home, taking advantage of audience goers who may be more comfortable in a Broadway style show rather then Cirque’s magical big top. Banana Shpeel may be winning some new fans with this ticket, but reviews from the show’s previous Chicago location prove they have disappointed much of their base.

As the show went on, glitter, glitz, black light and live music complimented what we came to see: the talent. Tap dancers, singers, and vaudeville acts mixed with circus style contortionists, acrobats, jugglers, and more appear throughout Banana Shpeel. Some acts transitioned more smoothly then others. Hat juggler Tuan Le’s act was a welcome fit with traditions in both vaudeville and the circus. Tuan manipulated 4 bowler hats head, to hand, to foot, pirouetting and kicking up with ease. Tuan’s sombrero style flying hats soared high into the theater for a lofty spectacle. World class antipodist Vanessa Alvarez stunned the crowd with her foot juggling skill. As the show’s center piece, Dima Shine’s hand balancing acrobatics on a pole warped the laws of gravity bending and balancing in any direction he pleased.

Preview tickets of Banana Shpeel are currently open to the public. The show fully opens May 21st. On a visit to Dubé this week Banana Shpeel‘s always on and always kooky clown Claudio Carneiro alluded that the show continues to improve. Any direction Banana Shpeel slip and slides guarantees a funny fall!

Tuan Le & Vanessa Alvarez
Vanessa Alvarez and Tuan Le outside the Beacon Theater.
Photo by Raymond Bono.

Club does not equal pin

Photo by Naomi Donabedian, shirt design by Matt Guzzardo

By Kyle Petersen

In a recent posting on the Dubé Facebook page, I posed the following question:

Do you get upset when non-jugglers call clubs “pins”? Do you find it necessary to correct them?

This innocent question led to a flurry of responses (43 to be exact) with a variety of opinions and attitudes towards juggling terminology. Some people were hard-liners, insisting that it is important to enlighten the ignorant. Others were ambivalent, saying that a club by any other name still juggles. Here’s is a taste of some of the choice comments:

I get even more upset when _jugglers_ call clubs “pins.” You really should know better…
-Wyatt H

Whenever I hear a juggler correcting someone’s word choice, I think: “Well, we just lost another potential friend/fan/juggling partner.” Why not hand someone a so-called “pin” and let them learn to toss it from hand to hand? No reason to act superior because you know a different word.
-Neil T

I’d correct them, but in a nice way. I mean, really…if you are a juggler, you know what those people are talking about. I think it’s more offensive when people find out you can juggle and they say “oh, so you’re a clown or something?” NO!..we are NOT clowns!
-Brandon P

In French the word “quilles” is used by jugglers and bowlers for their different objects. Vive l’indifférence!
-John G

A recent New York Times article about the Brooklyn-based Jugglers Anonymous club refers to clubs as “pins”, rings as “hoops” and cigar box as “cigar-box”. It seems the renowned New York Times Manual of Style and Usage doesn’t cover juggling terminology.

Kip, of the world-famous King Charles Troupe, calls his unicycle a “bike”, even though “bike” refers to a two-wheeled vehicle.

I frequently refer to my cigar boxes as “blocks”. Cigar box manipulation is somewhat esoteric, and few people outside of the juggling world know what I’m referring to when I say “cigar box”. I find that calling them “blocks” makes life much easier. For the record, I frequently refer to juggling clubs as “pins” for the same reason. When I say “club juggling”, laypeople often think of juggling in a night club. When I use to word “pins”, I find I am understood much more readily by non-jugglers.

What are your thoughts? Please let us know!

Dubé Juggling is proud to announce our sponsorship of Eric Bates!

Eric is a master cigar box juggler at The National Circus School in Montreal. Check out this video below, and look for more from Eric in the future.

Eric Bates – Cigar Box Juggler from Ben Philippi on Vimeo.

Jeff Peden actually does juggle, proof with a picture of passing with Bonnie Booth.

by Jeff Peden

At 6:00 pm on April 16th, 2010 the doors opened and the 33rd RIT Spring Juggle-In began. With over 40 people already in attendance for the Free Pizza party, things started quickly. As more and more jugglers arrived, the welcoming hugs and hello’s dropped away and the focus shifted to passing clubs and sharing tricks, to the ever present music playlist provided by Joe Showers. Tim Peterson had been busy setting up the video equipment all afternoon and was ready to capture the event on video from start to finish. Check out the video page at the RIT Club site to see the coverage. At 8:33 pm Cate Emily Flaherty gave a workshop on hand balancing for all those interested. Then at 8:50 pm, when the handstand competition began, she proceeded to “school” everyone by winning with a time of over 1 minute.

Cast of the Public show

This is the hardcore group that arrived at 6:00 p.m. for the opening of the festival & the cast of the Public show with Cate Emily Flaherty, handstand master, in front.

Following the competition was the Big Open. It was only the third time that RIT has had an opening night show, and it is clearly becoming a favorite. Attendance reached a count of 232 people. Free for everyone, and hosted by Warren Hammond of Smirk. The evening had multiple acts with some great variety. Jay Ko handled the camera and did a great job covering the acts which included: yo-yo with Chandler Scott, a ball routine from Micheal Karas, Cate Emily did an Improved ball routine followed by a handstand on rola bola, rings from Norbi, a routine with balls and clubs by RIT student Matt Keil, a Club routine Bekah Smith, Team passing duo Doug Sayers and Josh Horton, box and 2 balls by Chase Hensen and demonstrations of Major League Combat with Jason Garfield. Warren also presented his new favorite skill with the Blockhead routine and a Black and Decker screwdriver. Joe Showers also returned with Juggling Fear Factor, with the coconut neck catch and other stunts. The show was followed by Major League Combat league in one gym, while the main gym was left open for more juggling until closing at 12:03 a.m.

Ritchie the RIT Tiger Jay Ko Unicycle

Ritchie the RIT Tiger & Jay Ko, more than a camera man

Saturday began with a 10:03 a.m. Free Family Matinee which was hosted by Ted Baumhaeur and loaded with performers and an appreciative and overflowing audience of over 200. Performers included Ted himself along with his daughters, Dave Fultz of Gravitational Bull, Jeff Peden and Joe Showers of Airplay, Michael Karas did his puppet juggling routine and Bekah Smith did a flowing Flag poi routine. Immediately following the show there was time for beginners workshops, and photos with Ritchie the RIT Tiger. From then on the Gym became a beehive of activity with multiple workshops going on at once, as well as 6 different vendors tables, and a raffle table loaded with generous donations to which Dube Juggling was proud to be a part of.

During the last 10 years the RIT Juggle-In has focused on raising awareness and funds for research to help create a cure for Dystonia. Last year’s event allowed us to donate $2,000 to the cause and the RIT club has now been able to raise over $20,000 in donations for the Dystonia foundation. Since Dystonia is a condition that can be inherited or acquired and it robs its victims of control over their movements, it is a cause that jugglers can easily relate to.

Club Passing Doug Sayers Michael Karas leads the games

Club passing in the gym Doug Sayers in center & Michael Karas leads in Simon Say

At 2 p.m everyone gathered for our traditional Big Toss-up followed immediately by the games.

Games and results
5 Ball Endurance: Zack Zukas (3:36)
7 Ball Endurance:  Doug Sayers ( 15 seconds +)
Quarter Juggling: Kris Groth

3 Ball Blind Juggling: 1st – Joe Showers (5:16 +) & 2nd – Glen Luke Flanigan

3 Ball Simon Says – Lead by Michael Karas: 1st – Glen Luke Flanigan &  2nd – Joe Showers Note: with volleyballs

Best Trick Juniors (12 and under): Sawyer and Jeannette Oubre Note: 2nd year winners
Best Trick/Seniors: Joe Showers

Hand Stand Endurance: Cate Emily Flaherty

The evening show, held at Rush Henrietta High School gathered 450 people together to watch an unbelievable evening of variety. Smirk, (Warren Hammond and Reid Belstock) Emceed the evening and led off with their interactive two person club routine. Following them and setting the tone for the rest of the evening was Jorden Moir, a world class footbagger and student at the Zacada Circus School in Stoney Creek, Ontario. Jorden proceeded to do a near perfect routine to a standing ovation and an encore involving 7 balls manipulated by both hands and feet. The U of R Strong jugglers did an ensemble piece with balls and anywhere from 4 to 10 people on the stage at a time. Ted Baumhauer then totally engaged the audience with his slack rope routine and boomerang throws above the audience. Cate Emily’s presentation of hand balance was flawless and brought the audience to it’s feet for her excellence. Michael Karas provided his now trademark creativity with pieces involving linked rings, custom castle boxes, and even hot wheels tracks. Norbi brought to the stage the diabolo and ring pieces that he had just done the week before at the BJC, and the Strong Jugglers added yet another ensemble club piece. The big surprise for me was the highly technical nature of the Dazzling Mills performance. I have long enjoyed Steve’s antics on stage and the crazy unicycling. What I was not prepared for was the precision technical passing that enthralled and impressed the lay audience and jugglers alike.

No surprise, but quite the treat was our featured artist Doug Sayers. Doing a nearly flawless version of his IJA Gold medal routine, he closed the show with yet another standing ovation. With the show over, the crowd returned to the gym for another 2 hours of juggling before the majority departed for food at our beloved Jay’s Diner. Known for its milkshakes and tolerance of jugglers, we descended and overloaded their back room with over 50 late night breakfasters.

RIT Club past to the present!

RIT Club past to the present! Back row: Ben Bloom – RIT Club Pres 2007-08, Joe Lott- RIT club Pres 2009-10, Jeff Peden, Eric Lannan – RIT club Pres 2008-09 Front row: Bill Dietrich (33 years and never missed a Juggle-IN!) Greg Moss founder to the Juggle-In

Sunday had its own surprises this year as Greg Moss, the founder of the Juggle-In, managed to pull some strings and get us access to both the small and the large gyms – something we’ve never had before.  With 200 people still in attendance, it was a good thing. Surprising also was the huge turnout for the “working as a Team” forum lead by Warren and Reid, and the brilliant use of newspaper to make quick balancing practice devices by Steve Mills. By 2:03 pm it was time to walk the performers across campus in keeping with a new tradition that we started last year. Each performer signs our official club space “wall of fame”, and then we take a group photo. We even managed to get a photo of Greg Moss and RIT club President Joe Lott! Equally special this year was the fact that RIT club member Clarissa Hastings, who initiated the club wall project last year, was one of the interpreters for the show.

By 3:03 pm it was time to close the gym and the book on the 33rd RIT Spring Juggle-In.

More pictures of the festival on Jeff’s Facebook page. Check out what’s happening with the RIT juggling club on their website.

Apparently, juggling is big business. The Wall Street Journal does a write-up of Michael Moschen’s recent show at NYU’s Skirball Center Saturday April 17th, 2010.

Yes, Michael Moschen. The godfather of modern contact juggling. One of two jugglers ever to win the MacArthur Genius Award (high five to whoever can name the other). The same guy who contact juggled for David Bowie in The Labyrinth. Him.

It’s not every day that a juggler of this caliber passes through our lower Manhattan neighborhood. Michael blew the audience (including a few of us in attendance) away with his silicone ball triangle routine. Take a peek below at the genius.

I’ve never been to the Juggle This show solo. Nevertheless I was seated among a seasoned circus-goer and young  juggling enthusiast 6 year old. You can’t trick a 6 year old, they know good juggilng, and she was just as pleased as punch with  the antics and skills of this year’s Saturday Night Show Spectacular.

Photos and post by Naomi Donabedian. Thanks to Esy Casey for equipment and guidance.

Pratt Juggling Club’s 9th annual Juggle This Festival sprung into Brooklyn last week, April 8th-11th. It was a warm, breezy, darn right beautiful Saturday that we spent inside Pratt’s gym. Jugglers and performers spilled across the mammoth gym floor in pockets and groups. Clubs, balls, and diabolo seem to be the dominate prop, but this year we a spied acrobatics, hoops, devil sticks, yo-yos and more.

Photos by Naomi Donabedian. Thanks to Esy Casey for equipment and guidance.

Juggling Made Easy, an Illustrated Classic

Gene Jones left us with a great heap of juggling ephemera and memories when he dropped off a couple boxes of his collection. Covered in a shocking green, Rudolf Dittrich’s 1961 Juggling Made Easy is a juggling book worth getting to know. Juggling Made Easy offers enthusiastic encouragement for the beginner with playful and clear illustrations. The book describes juggling as a game you can learn to impress your friends and family with at parties! Juggling banishes boredom! The book covers 2-ball, 3-ball, 4-ball, 5-ball, 7-balls, rings, clubs (including cut-out instructions on how to make your own cardboard and broom handle club), see-saw (Dubé calls it a rola-bola), knives (wood knives painted silver to look real!), plates and disks, balancing, ribbons, feats of strength, and hats.

The final chapter, A Boy’s Game with Pocket Knives, seems a little tacked on, but is both educational and entertaining nonetheless. The chapter includes safety warnings but still might make a parent fear for their boy or girl’s extremities. Shouldn’t they be using wood knives painted with silver?

Has YouTube wiped out the need for printed instructions? Did anyone learn to juggle from books? Copies of Juggling Made Easy are still floating around the internet. Or come by and take a look at ours, we don’t mind sharing.

Cigar box manipulation is a vaudevillian throwback. Although we can’t say with certainty who first developed the concept of box manipulation, we do know that the art form was pioneered and popularized by the great W.C. Fields around the turn of the century. The first cigar box jugglers used actual cigar boxes (hence the name) which were typically nailed shut. The juggler holds onto two of the boxes and uses them to trap the third box. By turning, tossing, tumbling and flipping the boxes, box jugglers are able to execute a vast array of tricks. Box juggling is a standard part of any gentleman juggler act.

Cigar box juggling reached the peak of its popularity during the height of vaudeville, and suffered a slow decline after the advent of motion pictures. For years the art form had few practitioners until a young man named Kris Kremo burst onto the scene in the 1970s. Kris learned the art of cigar box juggling from his father, Bela Kremo, and the two even performed an act together. Kris is noted for his stage presence, and brought the art of box juggling to a broad audience.

While Kris focused on presentation, former Flying Karamazov Brother Charlie Brown is noted for his technical prowess. Charlie Brown would often perform in jeans and a t-shirt, and was something of a juggling rock star. Charlie’s message was clear: box juggling isn’t just for the gentleman juggler anymore. Even today, Charlie Brown is considered one of the great technical box jugglers of all time.

Like many juggling disciplines, cigar box juggling is experiencing a resurgence on the internet. Thanks to YouTube, the art form has been able to reach a much wider audience than before, and the level of technical ability has gone up dramatically. Of the current generation of cigar box jugglers, Eric Bates, Ryuhan, Tao Wei and Nick Flair stand out.

Brian Dubé’s father started manufacturing wooden boxes in the late 1970’s, and the boxes he made are very similar to the ones we sell today.  We started construction of our polyethylene boxes in the 1990’s.  Our plastic boxes are super durable, our decorated plastic boxes look outstanding on stage, and our wooden boxes have a traditional look and feel that many jugglers prefer. Stacking boxes are designed specifically for the 9 box pyramid stack.

Luke Wilson, Sean Blue, Tony Pezzo, and Jay Gilligan will be juggling tomorrow at Pratt Juggling Club. Just for fun, followed by open juggling. Stop by!

Tuesday, March 30, 8pm
@Pratt Student Union
200 Willoughby Ave, Brooklyn NY,
G train to Classon or free parking on campus.
Tell the guards you’re there for juggling.

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