rec.juggling Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Archive-name: juggling-faq
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Last-modified: 1996/11/21 Version: $Id: FAQ.txt,v 1.29 1996/11/21 21:27:21 barry Exp $

This is the file recjuggl.faq. It is meant to answer those questions that are frequently asked on rec.juggling. These questions and answers are not exhaustive, by any means.

Additions, deletions, corrections, praise, or flames regarding this document may be directed to The latest version of this file is available at:

1. What is the Juggling Information Service?

The Juggling Information Service, or JIS, is a service available on the World Wide Web at:

The JIS has sections for the following:

        What's New
        Juggling Help
        Jugglers' Home Pages
        News and Old News
        Picture Gallery
        Movie Theater
        Juggler's Mall
        Club Meetings
        Magazine Rack
        Juggler's World
        Juggling in the Media
        Juggling Software
        Juggling Organizations
        Search JIS
        About the JIS

It is possible to access the JIS services by WWW, FTP, e-mail, or Telnet. For more information on these services and how to use them, send an e-mail message to

2. Is there a news to mail gateway for rec.juggling?

Not at the moment. The former gateway at PNFI has been shut down. A replacement is being worked on, but will probably not be available until about September 1.

3. What is Mills Mess? How can I do Mills Mess?

Mills Mess is, as George Gillson puts it, a "mind boggling pattern of circling balls, crossing and uncrossing hands, and unexpected catches." It is a very appealing pattern to learn and perform. You can perform it with three, four, and, for those who are not of this world, five balls.

On the JIS, move to the 'Juggling Help' section, and you will find several pertinent titles.

There are also titles on two and three ball tricks, bounce juggling, showering, and tricks with showers, among others. You will also find help for clubs, passing, rings, torches, numbers, siteswaps, essays, and other circus arts.

4. What is contact juggling?

"Contact" Juggling is the art manipulating balls so that they roll across, around, and over your body. In other words, the balls always remain in contact with your body. Although the term "contact juggling" is relatively new, rolling a ball across, around and over one's body is not. Paul Cinquevalli, for instance, a juggler at the turn of the century, performed a routine where he wore a green felt jacket that had billiard "pockets" sewn onto it. He would manipulate billiard balls over his body and land them in the pockets.

Today, Michael Moschen is the preeminent "contact" juggler. He has a routine where he manipulates up to four crystal balls in each hand and gradually lets each ball go until he is manipulating only one ball. Mr. Moschen is also known for his work in the movie Labyrinth where he acted as the hands of David Bowie doing his crystal ball routine (he did the routine blind and with the aid of a monitor. Mr. Moschen was featured on the PBS Series "Great Performances" in the early 1990's. This video is entitled "In Motion with Michael Moschen" and is available from Serious Juggling and Brian Dube (see vendor information below). More recently, Mr. Moschen developed a piece for Cirque de Soleil. Mr. Steve Ragatz, rec.juggler, performs in this piece.

James Ernest wrote, and thereby coined the term, "Contact Juggling." This book is quite controversial. Some individuals claim that the book takes one of Moschen's routines and describes it movement for movement without giving proper credit. The IJA created quite a stir in 1992 when it published a review of this book in Juggler's World after it had invited Moschen to be the honored guest at the '92 festival in Montreal. Moschen felt that the book plagiarized his work and refused to attend the festival. After some reconsideration, he did attend and gave a workshop on creativity.

5. Are there any organizations for jugglers?

Of course. The International Jugglers' Association (IJA) has nearly 3,000 members in several countries, although most are in the US. It publishes Juggler's World (an excellent magazine), an annual membership roster, and hosts a large annual festival, including many shows and competitions, and more. The European Juggling Association was created to host a large annual juggling convention in Europe. The New Zealand Juggling Association publishes the Flying Kiwi magazine and hosts an annual convention.

6. What do all those funny numbers mean?

They are site swaps.

Site swaps are strings of numbers, each number refers to how high a throw is in relation to others in the pattern. Even numbers are thrown to the same hand, odd numbers are thrown across to the other hand. The numbers then, tell the right hand what to do, then the left, the the right, etc. For example:

        3       The three object cascade

The pattern repeats over and over again. So rather than writing "...33333..." we just write "3." Similarly:

        4       The 4 object fountain pattern (alternating)
        5       The 5 object cascade pattern
        5 1     The 3 object non-synchronous shower (1 is a quick
                pass from hand to hand)

At the JIS, move to the 'Juggling Help' section and select the title Siteswap Notation for more information on site-swaps.

In addition to the site swap notation, there are a number of programs that will display site swap patterns for the PC, X Workstations (Unix), Ascii Terminals (Unix), and the Mac. Refer to the directory Software section at the JIS.

7. Are there any books that deal with juggling?

Juggling For the Complete Klutz, By John Cassidy.

        The quintessential beginners guide.  This book comes with
        three bean bags to get you started.  It also covers basic
        tricks such as the half shower, behind the back,
        two-in-one-hand, four balls, and clubs.  This book comes with
        three bean bags and is very cleverly written.  The beef
        against this book, though, is that it addresses numbers
        juggling (juggling five balls or more) in a rather
        discouraging tone.  Beyond four lies madness, it claims

The Complete Juggler, By Dave Finnegan.

        Where it lacks in detail, it makes up in volume. _The Complete
        Juggler_ is a veritable encyclopedia of tricks for balls,
        clubs, boxes, devil sticks, diabolos, and spinning balls.
        Beware of its lack of detail in explaining tricks, however.
        The text that describes how to juggle 5 clubs says 'bend your
        knees' and 'go for it.'  Yeah, right.

Beyond the Cascade, By George Gillson.

        The complete guide to three ball juggling patterns.  Even if
        you have trouble understanding instructions like 'toes go in
        first,' you can probably follow the instructions in this book
        and learn Mills Mess, 2-in-1-hand tennis, or Burke's Barrage
        (bend your knees and go for it).

At the JIS, move to the 'Juggling in the Media' section.

8. How can I learn to juggle five balls?

Probably your best bet for learning five balls is to find a good 5 ball juggler and have her or him teach you. Also, study good five ball jugglers when they ply their craft, notice how effortlessly smooth the pattern is, how high the balls go, how the balls cross.

If you can't find a five ball juggler, you can practice several tricks that will help you learn five balls. The first is the three ball flash. Out of a three ball cascade, throw all of the balls into the air, then catch them as them come down and resume your cascade. It might be helpful to practice throwing one ball high, back and forth, so that you can get used to the higher throws that are necessary for juggling five balls. Another valuable trick is the three ball chase, or snake. Start with three balls in either hand, then throw them to the other hand in a one, two, three pattern and then catch them in the opposite hand, one, two, three. Make sure that your throws are consistent and follow each other in nice high arcs (those of you who've been to St. Louis can visualize the Gateway Arch). Then repeat the pattern, throwing the balls one, two, three, back to your original hand. Once your arcs are solid, you can keep the pattern going. Say you're starting with your right hand, throw the balls one, two, three, to your left hand. Your left hand will catch the first ball, then cascade it back to your right hand, under ball two. You will, similarly, cascade ball two under ball three, and then ball three will be cascaded back.

9. Is there a juggling club that meets near me?

See the form designed to answer this very question:

The JIS Club Meetings section lists all known juggling meetings worldwide:

10. Where can I buy juggling props?

At the JIS, move to the 'Juggler's Mall' section for information on all juggling vendors worldwide:

This contains complete contact information for many vendors that sell a wide variety of juggling props via mail order or e-mail.

11. Where can I learn about the history of juggling?

Use the search tool of the JIS and look for "history". It will find references in over 400 files, including: