Feats of Balancing find, I think, more favour with the embryo Juggler than any other branch of our beloved science. This is scarcely to be wondered at. To practise the Art of Balancing needs no spacious gymnasium, no mats, or balls. In the dingy office, or the spacious drawing-room, in bed-room or back-yard, articles galore await his attention. Pens and pen-racks, chimney ornaments and fire-irons, chairs and water-jugs, brooms and coal-scuttles, naught comes amiss to the budding equilibrist.
Whatever my reader's particular tastes may be, I sincerely and charitably pray he may not possess mine. For my special passion was for glass, china, or any similarly fragile article. The sight of such things tastefully displayed on a mantlepiece, or cunningly arranged in the recesses of a What-not, used to positively fascinate my sight. My nasal organ would itch to feel one or the other of them balanced on it, in apparent opposition to all the recognised laws of gravity and equilibrium.
When any particularly prized article was missing or discovered injured, I found the life of an aspiring Juggler not a particularly happy one. There is so little sympathy in this cold World with struggling genius, that it is perhaps as well not to encourage the desire to practise balancing chairs in a drawing-room! A slight trip may send the thing crashing through the chandelier or sweeping the mantlepiece. Better go, like a good and dutiful youth (which in sooth, beloved reader, I never was), to the back yard: where the thundering din of a coal-bucket falling off your forehead, nay even the entry of a broom through the kitchen window, will be sweetest music in your ears compared with the horrible jingle of mantle ornaments in the best room. Nor is the thought of the coming interview with Pater or Mater calculated to steady the nerves for further practice! I would, furthermore, affectionately remind the before-mentioned beloved reader that bulky vases and china ornaments are ill-adapted for the purpose - both by the laws of gravity and by those of economy. I almost weep at the recollection that my rudimentary knowledge, and (worse still) my later practice, was gained amid such surroundings and circumstances as I have referred to. My remembrance of some of the subsequent conferences on the subject of missing and damaged articles, is that they were of a nature peculiarly adapted to impress the memory. I trust these references to my early experience will deter the reader from following my evil example, and will remind him that there are more suitable places than nicely furnished apartments, and more serviceable articles than those of glass and china for the purpose.
But to get to business.
For the first lessons in Balancing nothing will be found better adapted than a common broom with a handle of from four to five feet long. For a novice this is an ideal article, the form and weight of the head greatly assisting in maintaining the equilibrium. The end of the handle should be rounded off, as it is far easier to balance than if left flat or jagged. Practice should be continued until the broom (or any similar article) can be balanced on the back of either hand with scarcely any apparent motion, and without the pupil having to move to and fro to keep it there.
Proficiency to this extent will be rapidly attained by the earnest Student, who can then practise balancing it upon his head. Commence with the chin, as there is less danger to the eyes from anything slipping than if the article were balanced on the nose or forehead. Of course the pupil will require a certain amount of practice before he can maintain an article poised on any part of his head or face; but he will quickly attain the necessary skill to keep any fairly long article (such as a broom handle) balanced for a few seconds on his forehead, nose or chin. When once he has acquired the knack of retaining it there but a couple of seconds or so, he will soon be able to keep it poised fairly steadily and without difficulty, for a long time, and without needing to move about.
Remember, it is chiefly at the start that learning anything fresh in juggling is discouraging.
In the particular branch of the Art we are now discussing, when the tyro has practised sufficiently to enable him to balance articles of different shape and weight moderately well his progress will be rapid. Needless to remind him again that opportunities for practice as well as articles to practise with, are practically unlimited. Anything, from a cigarette-paper to a dog-cart (presuming he possesses the necessary strength), may be utilised for the purpose. I may mention that much heavier and more unwieldy articles can be balanced on the chin than on the forehead or nose, and can be better controlled. Their being better seen than when on the nose or forehead assists greatly in enabling one to retain the equipoise. The chin, then, being particularly adapted for heavy-weight balancing should be gradually accustomed by careful and continuous practice with articles of increasing weight, to such burdens as the pupil cares, or finds himself able, to carry. Of course these remarks apply more particularly to those who purpose going in for heavy-weight balancing. The flesh of the face being very tender (and in some persons more than others) it would be easily injured or bruised if care were not taken and the weight carefully and gradually increased to the desired amount.
When balancing, keep the mind intently centred on the thing balanced and the sight fixed on the top of the article, Fig. 4. The Student who possesses the habit of observation will soon notice how much poorer progress he makes, when his mind is occupied with other matters, than when it is entirely centred on his work. This is true of all juggling practice but applies with especial force to balancing. To become an expert equilibrist the Student must cultivate will-power and the faculty of concentrating all the force of his mind on the work in hand. The one whose heart and pleasure is in his work will progress as much in one month as the listless worker will in three or even six months. But I suppose this applies to most things under the sun. To become successful in anything the brain must work as well as the muscles.
When balancing, have the head thrown well back so as to obtain the clearest view possible of the top of the thing balanced and to relieve all unnecessary strain upon the eyes.
The practice of juggling is very beneficial to the eyesight, as the
various tender muscles of the eyes are kept in moderate and healthy
exercise in the same way as are the muscles of the other parts of the
body. The delicate and complex machinery of the organs of vision
demand and deserve our especial care.