Chin up, old chap! David Aiken and Susan Kirby pass clubs around a guard at the Government House in Ottawa, Canada. (Jean Ringuette photo)
Three acts from San Francisco's Pier 39 won top awards at the Milano, Italy, Premio Strada '86 festival in May. The High Street Circus (Andrew Potter and Wheeler Cole), Full Moon Circus (Cliff and Mary Spenger) and Ned Van Alstyne took the top three places among 20 acts in this judged event.
The producer of the festival, Raffaele Barki, set up the 1986 version as a followup to a similar event in 1985 that featured European performers. The three winners were the only juggling and variety acts on the bill in the two-night event. Other spots were filled by street musicians and a BMX bicycle team. All acts were provided air fare to Milan, and won cash prizes which have not yet been received.
Van Alstyne and Potter downplayed the competitive aspect of the event, pointing out that the 2,500 member audience and 10 judges were much more receptive to variety performers than to the musicians.
All three dealt with the language barrier in creative ways. Full Moon Circus translated their entire act into Italian and memorized it. High Street created a running gag of their ignorance of the language by speaking phrases that they wrote on their arms, legs and other parts of their body. Van Alstyne departed from his usual style by miming his entire act.
Highlights of their acts included: High Street's passing clubs on 6-foot unicycles, Full Moon's slack rope juggling and torch juggling, and Van Alstyne's machete juggling and box routine to the Pyr Gynt theme. The show was also taped for Italian television.
(photo by Susan Hall)
San Francisco jugglers normally work out on the ground below Todd Strong's hull. But much cascading of rain and flooding kept most people away from "Rastelli Meadow" this day. Strong, however, successfully kept the tradition alive and get in his practice!
I teach juggling in fifth through twelfth grades in North Carolina and reach 150 or more students each week. I'm surprised to find more than 80 percent pick up juggling skills with an hour's lesson daily for a school week.
Beanbags work for my teaching. Anything bouncy is terror in a gym full of excited kids. I think scarves have very little carryover value for most young jugglers, but they are sometimes ideal with handicapped students.
Teaching can be tiring and repetitious, but students show enthusiasm, I perform once at each school, but the most satisfaction is helping kids enjoy the freedom that comes from an art that requires discipline, dedication, concentration, patience and faith.
As the excerpts here show, kids say some funny things about their juggling experience!
"Thank you for your time with us. Why one of these days you may be able to juggle a hundred balls!"
"I hope you come back next year. And I hope you don't get hurt on your things."
"You are the best juggler of all I have seen in my life. Do you go to school?"
"I've got a 14-year-old brother. He's a pain in the neck. I tried to show him to juggle but he was a flop."