Waltzing For Beginners

Being an article on three count passing and related topics, by Ken Zetie

I guess many jugglers find that passing is the most fun they can have with another person (so long as they have to keep their clothes on). Hence we're always on the lookout for new passing patterns and tricks which become ever more difficult or require fifteen people, 9 million clubs and a partridge in a pear tree. A good way to expand your passing repertoire is to add 'waltzing' or 'three-count' to the wrinkles on your bum. Let me explain...

Most people when passing are handed - they pass from the right hand to their partner's left, and only do selfs with the left (ignoring, for now, doubles and so forth). There is, however, a growing minority of passers who are more even-handed, well-balanced individuals who like to pass with both hands. This leads to a vast number of possibilities some of which were described in an article by Brendan Brolly a few issues back, but that was for the initiates in the cult. This article is strictly for neophytes.

To learn to pass with the left hand as well as the right is quite tricky at first. The golden rule is Do Not Give Up! Remember when you learned to pass? Remember what a long and tedious process it was? Well, this will come a lot quicker. Also, like learning to pass in the first place it comes much quicker if you find a good partner who can catch your crap and throw back gems.

First off, just try the pass with your left hand to get the feel of the throw. Try to make it exactly the same as the pass with the right which usually means letting the hand drop to the side with the club pointing downwards and tossing a one-and-a-half spin so that it arrives upright just to partner's side. That's a single (confusingly). Now try chasing a couple of clubs round with all the passes coming from the left. Build up to five or even try a 4 count 'backwards' if it feels OK. The difficulty is going to be with either the throws or the catches (the right hand being unused to catching usually) and these practices train the passing action without confusing your brain about the timing. That comes next...

When you're reasonably happy that, at a pinch, you can chuck a club at your opponent (sorry, partner) and she has a fair whack at catching it it's time to try the basic right-left passing pattern, called three count or waltzing. Why three count? Well, counting all throws (right and left) you go self, self, pass. The 'every-other' pattern is 4-count and a 'shower' is 2-count by this reckoning. Don't worry about 1 count. Yet.

Start with 2 clubs in the right hand. If you like fast starts (I do) go straight in with a right to left pass. Otherwise you can start on a slow count with any even number of selves...After the right hand has passed you make two self throws (left to right and right to left) and then you pass with the left hand to partner's right. Another way to view this pattern is that the same clubs are being passed back and forth on each side - you return the club partner has passed to you.

Now everyone learns at different rates and in different ways. You may find it easiest to count to yourself "pass, two, three" (or "one, two, pass" if you're perverse) or you may find the pattern just sticks in your mind and you can see which club to throw where.

Things to concentrate on: make sure the left pass is just like the right pass - let the club drop to your side and below your pattern so it passes out easily; don't worry about picking up drops - it is possible, in fact it's pretty easy, but it will seem totally confusing at first; get the throw out and don't stop - partner may just catch it and continuing helps to reinforce the beat in your mind; practise and enjoy it.

Once you are waltzing with abandon you may like to add tricks. The simplest thing is to do trick throws such as under-the-leg or tomahawks as they do not disrupt the timing. However, there is much fun to be had with doubles and triples and they really are pretty simple.

The easiest double for you to throw to your partner is the early-double. It is thrown one beat earlier than the normal pass (hence the name), it crosses and arrives at partner's hand on time. So your sequence becomes pass, self, self, pass, self, pass, self, self, self, pass... The double is on beat three if you count "pass, two, three" or, another way to look at it is that you pass three times in a row from the same hand - eg your left hand may go single, double, [self], single. In fact it can continue that ad infinitum, alternating singles and doubles and your right hand never passes at all!

The other simple double is the self double or "early early double". It is thrown on beat two and is a double straight up out of one hand (your right say) and back into the same hand. Another way to view it is this: you pass with your left. As you do so a club is coming to your right from partner and you must empty your right hand. Instead of the usual right-to-left self, toss a double straight up, catch the pass and return it at the normal time, which clears the hand just in time to catch the double. Again this can be done continuously and from either hand (or both!).

The more complicated double, the late double, I shan't go into here, so I'll move swiftly onto triples. Triples go straight - left to partner's right and right to partner's left. They are easiest thrown on beat two just like the self double and this is sometimes called the "early early triple" - two beats before the normal pass and it arrives on time. Watch your own throws afterwards - you have a lot of selfs to do to catch up with partner! If you pass a single from the left and then immediately throw a triple from the right then the triple takes the place of your normal right single and your next pass is a left single. If you throw the triple at any other time then it, like the late double, requires your partner to spot that a gap has been thrown and adjust. It's possible, but not for beginners to worry about!

I can't resist introducing a silly pattern at this point. Once your three count is solid you may want to work on 'ultimates' or 1-count - no self passes! This is tricky and there are plenty of patterns to practise 'under the trick'. My favourite is this one:

[pass self pass pass self pass pass pass self] (counting all the throws!)

and repeat. First time through it starts on the right, second time on the left. If you make it that far...

So those are the basics of three count, waltzing or alternates, a pattern of many names. Once it's solid it has a lovely balanced feel, introduces lots of new patterns (and feeds) and blows your mind trying to keep track of it all!

Waltzing For Beginners / Juggling Information Service / help@juggling.org
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