Suppose we begin with perhaps the most popular, and very showy feats: namely, the various kinds of Ball Juggling. Though to some extent out of fashion with modern Jugglers, this is as necessary to a Juggler's education as scale practice to the scholar in music. We have some wonderful manipulators of the flying balls still with us. Amongst the foremost of these is Pierre Amoros, who juggled with nine billiard balls and who now, I believe, performs the unprecedented feat of keeping ten balls in the air. There is also Rapoli who "showers" five balls in a right-hand direction, and then without a stop or pause, reverses, and "showers" them in a left-hand direction. Charlene is another famous performer who executes feats with seven or eight balls as easily as many Jugglers would with four or five. Of course these performances are without parallel in the profession, and are the result of the study and persevering practice of a lifetime. But those of my readers who steadily and pluckily keep up their practice will reap the reward due to diligence, and will soon acquire a degree of dexterity which will render easy the accomplishment of more and more difficult feats.
First, as to the best class of ball. Some artistes use billiard-balls, others tennis-balls, whilst a few prefer metal balls. My objections to all the foregoing are, that billiard-balls are too heavy - especially when manipulating five or more. They are very apt to clash with one another, and fly off at a tangent with great force; at considerable risk of damage to the tyro practising, and to anything breakable they may encounter in their wild flight. Furthermore, if the performer perspires much, the smooth ivory surface becomes damp and slippery much sooner than any other. Tennis-balls are too large and too light (when juggling more than four), while metallic ones have practically the same disadvantages as billiard balls. The kind my experience has led me to adopt as most suitable are balls of hard rubber, slightly smaller than a full-sized billiard-ball. These are about the right weight and are very satisfactory in every way, as they do not get damaged or out of shape, and do not get slippery in the hand. They may be bought at most of the toyshops and sports- outfitters, for a few coppers each. Let me remind the budding Juggler that it is well to accustom himself to use always one kind of ball. He will find it a great loss of practice (as well as costly) if, after becoming somewhat expert with one particular size and weight, he discards it for another kind of a different size or a different weight.
And now, having procured a number of balls of the right kind, let us proceed to see what we can do with them.
There are several different styles of Ball Juggling for two hands. The three most used are:
(1) Cascading, or throwing the balls into the air from one hand to another, performing the same movement with the left hand as with the right, so that the balls pass and re-pass in the centre. See fig. 1.
(2) Showering, or throwing the balls from hand to hand, so as to produce the appearance of a circular or oval figure. See Fig. 2.
(3) Double Showering, or throwing the balls from hand to hand, so as to form a double-looped figure-one loop inside the other. See Fig. 3.
None of these feats are exactly easy, of course. There would be many more competent Jugglers in this world, if they were: but they can all be accomplished by anyone who is determined to succeed, who will give the time and patience necessary for practising, and who goes about it in the right way.
So, before I describe in detail how to do the Cascade and the Showers, I will describe the preliminary practice which is necessary to every style of Ball Juggling.
The first thing to be done is to practise throwing one ball to varying heights, and learning to catch it again neatly and gracefully-and with certainty-in every conceivable position.
One-Ball Practice. - Practising with one ball will not be found very entertaining to the beginner, but it will make very much easier the work which is to come and lay a good foundation for other styles of Juggling. Throw the ball up from the right hand to heights varying between one and six or seven feet. This should be persevered in until the ball can be thrown and caught with the right hand with but little effort. Throw the ball as nearly vertical as possible so that it comes down to the place whence it started: thereby obviating unnecessary reaching out for it. A Juggler, in all his public performances should keep his feet as still as possible, and move from his original "stance" only when it is absolutely necessary to the performance of a particular feat. Practise the same movement with the left hand: then vary the procedure by throwing with the right and catching with the left: and, again, the other way about. Now try throwing it up in front of you and catching it from under your leg. Next throw it up in front of you and catch it behind you; throw it up from behind you and catch it in front of you; throw it up and catch it in the many other ways you can devise for yourself as you progress. Lengthy and detailed instructions as to one-ball practice are obviously unnecessary, and would be an insult to the reader's intelligence.
Two-Ball Practice. The next thing to learn is to juggle two balls, first with the right hand, and then with the left. Take two balls in the right hand, throw one four or five feet high, and the moment it begins its descent throw up the other one in the same manner. Catch the descending one and return it into the air again, and so on. The balls in this practice are played with the right hand only. Repeat this throwing up and catching until it becomes quite easy. At the first few attempts this may be found a little difficult, but with half-an-hour's practice daily it will rapidly become mere child's play. A good plan is to count as each ball leaves the hand. Thus, if you can count up to ten, say, after a few days' practice, and up to fifteen after a few days more, you will be able definitely to estimate the progress you are making. Then you must practise with the left hand until you are able to use it nearly as well as the right. I say nearly as well: because it is practically impossible for the majority of people to become absolutely ambidextrous. When able to juggle two balls in either hand you can attempt three. There are many different ways in which balls can be manipulated-particularly when only using three - but you will find none easier or afford better practice than the Cascade. The term "cascade" can really hardly be applied to a manipulation of only three balls, but is properly used to describe a movement with five or more. You must begin with three, however, and gradually increase the number as you become dexterous. You can't run until you have learnt to walk, you know.
To commence, take two balls in the right hand and one in the left. Lead off by throwing up one of the balls from the right hand, as you have already been taught; with a slightly inward motion, remembering that balls leaving one hand have to be caught by the other. Next the ball in the left hand should be thrown up (at the moment the first is about to descend) as nearly as possible to the same height in a slightly right-hand direction: the first ball thrown is now caught in the left hand, the second ball is in the air and the third ball is at once thrown up from the right hand in the same manner as the first. Playing three balls in this manner will soon be found very easy of accomplishment and should take very little time to learn.
Showering three balls is more difficult, and the method should be first practised with two, as follows: take both balls in the right hand, and throw one from the right hand to the left; not straight across but with an upward and inward motion, making a sort of half circle from one-and-a-half to two feet high. The left hand receiving the ball must be about eighteen inches from the right and slightly higher. As soon as the first ball has left the right hand, send the other after it with an exactly similar throw: then catch the first ball in the left hand and immediately transfer it to the right by a short straight downward throw. Catch the second ball and shoot it to the right hand: but, before it gets there, the first ball must have again started its journey to the left hand, and so on. This must be done over and over again till our future exponent of the Science has become expert in this particular movement. This he will do pretty quickly if he carefully follows the instructions given. The pupil will the more readily learn to Shower three or more balls by practising the above method with two balls than by commencing with three. I strongly advise him always to perfect himself in each part or movement he sets himself to learn, before proceeding to another. "Slow and sure" is old but excellent advice.
To Shower three balls, two are held in the right hand and one in the left. Precisely the same procedure must be followed as in showering two: with this important addition, that the first ball thrown should be sent up a little higher than the succeeding ones. This gives a little additional time to get the others after it. Immediately the first ball is away, send up the second after it; and quickly transfer the third from the left hand to the now empty right. As the first ball is caught in the left hand, the ball that has just been transferred to the right hand, must be at once thrown after the others as before.
I must here caution the learner not to throw the balls (or indeed any articles in other movements) too high; both because the longer time occupied in their passing through the air takes more judging, and because a great deal of effect is lost, if balls are juggled too slowly as they must be if thrown too high. When proficiency has been attained in Cascading and Showering separately, a very pretty little movement may be practised, by Cascading with the three balls for a short time, and then passing into the Shower without stopping. This is an effective little trick. To I accomplish the above, commence Cascading and count each time a ball leaves the right hand, 1, 2, 3, up to, say, 12. After the twelfth has left the right hand, the next (viz., the thirteenth) must be thrown about as high again as the preceding ones, the fourteenth not quite so high. No. 12, which has now been caught in the left hand, must be quickly passed (as in Showering) to the right hand, where it becomes No. 15 and is quickly sent up after No. 14 (still as in Cascading). Now as the thirteenth reaches the left hand after its somewhat higher throw, shoot it to the right and proceed with the Shower, counting it No. 1. This is but one of the many simple, but showy, little changes that will suggest themselves to the devotee as he progresses in the art.
To juggle three balls in one hand, the three should be held in the right hand and of course thrown up one after the other, each ball being made to take as nearly as possible the same line or direction as the preceding one. It might be thought that to play three balls with one hand they must be thrown to a great height. This is not so, seven or eight feet is sufficiently high for a beginner, who will find the higher he sends the balls the less control he has over them. They should not be thrown too quickly, but with deliberation, the third one leaving the hand as the first commences to descend. The balls in this feat are apt to collide with each other a good deal in the earlier stages of practice, but patience and perseverance will overcome all difficulties, and success will be the reward. Of course, manipulating three balls with one hand is no child's exercise, and when our pupil can accomplish it easily and gracefully, he may regard himself as "coming on" in the science.
In juggling four balls, the simplest method is to play two in each band, (not passing them from one hand to another) as four being an even number, Cascading them, even to an expert Juggler is an awkward movement. If fair proficiency has been acquired in playing two balls in each hand separately, not much practice will be found necessary to use the two hands at the same time with two balls in each. The awkward feeling first experienced in attempting to juggle with both hands at once, but working independently of each other, will soon pass off: and this will be found one of the easiest movements to acquire in ball-juggling. There are two ways of performing the foregoing: one is for the two hands and the four balls to keep time with each other, that is, throwing up a ball from each hand at the same second of time, and catching them simultaneously: and the other is to keep alternate time, throwing up a ball first with the right and then with the left and so on. The latter perhaps is a shade more difficult than the former. It is as well occasionally to lead off with the left, instead of the right hand, as tending to the acquirement of ambidexterity, but this remark does not apply to Showering.
Showering four balls is of course more advanced work, and will require considerably more practice than any of the foregoing. To commence Showering four the same instructions given for Showering three, holds good. I trust it is needless to say, that it is useless attempting this movement with four balls, until the tyro is expert in Showering three. Two balls are held in each hand: lead off with the right by throwing the first ball about two yards high, and quickly send up the other from the right hand: shoot one ball from the left hand to the right, and at once send it up after the other two. The fourth ball is now transferred from left to right, and sent up in the wake of the others as the first ball is caught in the left hand. A month's hopeful, patient, intelligent practice should show good results. I will again remind my reader of the importance of holding the left hand a little higher than the right in Showering. I would also again advise him to pursue his study and practice of the science not only with all patience, but with cheerfulness and pleasure in his work.
We are now about to deal with the more advanced stage of Ball- juggling - juggling with five balls or more. I must here point out that it is just as difficult, or impossible, to learn scientific juggling by simply reading instructions in black and white and not practising them, as it is to learn a foreign language by simply reading a book on the subject and never trying to speak it. Nevertheless, if the instructions I have striven to convey in this little work are intelligently studied - and assiduously practised - by anyone ambitious to excel, they will assuredly assist him on the road to success and greatly lighten his journey.
By this time the pupil is becoming worthy of the name of a real Student in the fascinating and Ancient Art of Juggling: and, if he can successfully manipulate three and four balls, he will need but little further instruction to enable him to juggle five or more. He must bear in mind the advice and teaching already given on the subject, as they apply to the successful playing of five or more balls just as much as they do to a smaller number. A few remarks, however, are called for regarding this more difficult work, as they may save much waste of time in useless practice.
The prettiest movements with five balls are those given at, the commencement of this chapter, viz. the Cascade, Shower, and Double- Shower.
To make good progress with five balls, the pupil should first perfect himself in the Cascade. This is practised much the same as with three, but with a much quicker motion. Take three balls in the right hand and two in the left. Throw up a ball from the right hand slightly towards the left about a yard and half to six feet high, following immediately with one from the left: send another from the right hand and the next from the left, and while the first ball is just beginning its descent, send up the remaining ball from the right hand, and as each ball descends to the opposite hand return it again towards the other one. I think I hear my reader say "easier said than done." Quite right! Oh most wise Scholar! But if he apply himself steadily and systematically to the work but an hour or more each day, the results in a few weeks, providing he possesses any aptitude for the business, will be very encouraging. Make a point of counting, particularly when playing a number of balls, as it greatly assists in keeping good time, and you can also better note the progress you have made.
Showering five balls requires exactly the same motion as Showering four. Take three balls in the right hand and two in the left: play them as when playing four, except to throw them a little higher. It is best always to send up the first ball a little higher than the rest when Showering, as this gives more time to get the rest of the balls comfortably away. I would here emphasize the necessity of the Student keeping the best time in his practice that he is capable of. A simple and easy feat gone through in perfect time, with due regard to style and rhythm, may be more effective and pleasing than a much more difficult one played in a careless or slovenly manner without attention to time or style. It is an excellent plan to hum or whistle a favourite air to mark the rhythm in this practice.
Double-Showering is perhaps the most difficult of the three styles of Ball-juggling referred to at the beginning of this chapter. The balls are thrown from the right hand to the left as in ordinary Showering, but those from the left hand to the right are thrown similarly, instead of being shot direct to the right hand. The balls thrown from left to right are kept inside those thrown from right to left in a smaller half circle. This is managed by the balls leaving the left hand not being thrown quite so high. It is a very showy feat and is accomplished as follows:- begin by Cascading file balls, and when you have got them running rhythmically, throw up one of the balls from the right hand over and outside the other balls to the left hand. When this can be successfully done, without interfering with the time, try two consecutive balls from the right hand in the same manner, viz. outside and over the others. This will of course require some practice but need not present any insuperable difficulty. Don't forget to send the balls from the left hand to the right a little lower than in ordinary Cascading. When the learner can throw two in this manner, he may try three, and so on, till he can throw all the balls leaving the right hand in an outer and therefore larger circle. This is the Double-Shower.
A very effective routine can be practised by the Student when he is versed in the three foregoing styles: by Cascading the five balls and counting up to, say twenty-five, then running into the Double- Shower and doing twenty-five, then finally into the ordinary Shower and doing fifty. Of course the feats we are now describing require considerable practice, though that is no reason why they should not be mastered, but my reader must not be discouraged if his progress is not so rapid as in the elementary stages. No man comes into the world a Juggler, and the feats of dexterity and skill that one occasionally sees and marvels at are the results of long practice.
To those of my readers who desire to excel in Ball-manipulation, a few remarks on juggling six or seven may not come amiss.
Do not attempt Cascading six balls. The reader will call to mind what has already been said with reference to Cascading an even number of balls. Either practise a movement with three balls independently in each hand, as per instructions for four, or Shower with six. An artistic display is made with six balls by throwing up simultaneously two balls (one from each hand) about five or six feet high, so that they pass in the centre of ascent and descend to the opposite hands from which they are thrown. Immediately the first two leave the hands send up two more, and then the remaining two. Take especial care that both hands move exactly in unison, and that each two balls leave the hands simultaneously, and with the same amount of force imparted to them, so that they ascend to exactly the same height and travel at the same rate of speed. These points are essential to the effect of this graceful movement. In early practice it will often happen that the balls will collide, but this will soon be avoided with a little perseverance. I think this is perhaps, the most easily acquired and the prettiest of any six ball play in juggling.
To juggle seven balls, the Cascade is the best movement, and the only one which it is really possible to master. There are one or two well-known Jugglers who have attempted on the stage to Shower seven, but this is very exceptional.
Double-Showering eight, or Cascading nine, is much easier than Showering seven; but playing eight and nine balls in these two respective styles necessitates years of practice, and I strongly advise my readers to apply their energies to making themselves expert with three, four and five balls, and with other articles and forms of the art, than to expend time attempting feats they probably will never be able to accomplish. It is, moreover, a painful fact in the experience of every artiste that it is not always the most difficult feat that finds most favour with an audience. I have often seen an exhibition of a marvellous performance, which has only been attained by years of laborious and painstaking application, scarcely evoke more than kindly applause, whilst some gaudy little trick learnt in the performer's apprenticeship days, showily done, has brought the house down. Juggling with any number of balls over five is a somewhat unreliable business. After years of practice, and when the necessary skill has been acquired, it necessitates unceasing practice to keep in form. I want my readers who take up these studies, to find in them a delightful recreation, and I would have them steer clear of attempting what they are very unlikely to succeed in mastering.