When jugglers decide to become performers, the elements of their art are obvious - skill, costume, props and stage. But they soon find that an essential part of performance not so easily seen or acquired looms before them - the creation of a character.
While the "gentleman" juggler may stand as an exception, I get the distinct impression that jugglers choose characters that have a single quality in common they are childlike. These children may be playful and joyful, obnoxious and bratty, or silly and spontaneous. At the very least, though, any performing juggler is doing things other adults gave up long ago.
In "The Power of Your Other Hand" (Newcastle, 1988), Linda Capacchione suggests that use of the non dominant limb gives us the opportunity to discover creative aspects of our personality that are not ordinarily displayed. She emphasizes the tendency for this portion of our make up to be reminiscent of an innocent child - trusting and truthful, but easily scared into a quiet and non-expressive state.
In sensing the awkwardness and hesitation present when we use our non-dominant side, feelings that remind us of childhood surface and enhance the emergence of childlike, creative behavior. Juggling as a performance art seems especially likely to invite youthful exuberance in movement because the juggler is not confined to a piano bench, an orchestra seat or, like a dancer, scripted to a melody or beat.
If we propose that the use of our non dominant side tends to affect our behavior in a trusting and innocent direction, is it reasonable to assume that overuse of the dominant side might push us in the other way? Well, have you ever heard it said of someone, "He's all right until he gets on the golf course (or tennis court, basketball court, ball field, etc.), then he turns into a complete jerk."
When was the last time you heard it said, "He's okay, but I can't stand to be around him when he's juggling?"
In my own profession, physical therapy, there is a strong tradition that the use of our bodies alters our way of seeing the world and that we can affect mental processes by manipulating the periphery of the patient. The legendary movement therapist Moshe Feldenkrais has even suggested that our brains evolved to keep up with our remarkably coordinated bodies, not the other way around!
The mythological king always had a jester nearby to entertain him, advise him, and help him see all sides of an issue. In fact, the jester makes the king whole. When I pick up my props, something inside awakens. My wit is quick, if somewhat unsophisticated, my movement is very unlike my usual plodding, and I begin to trust a bit more the world around me. It is a wonderful gift...
Barrett Dorko is a physical therapist and a member of the Rubber City Jugglers in Akron, Ohio.