The 1991 IJA Festival Highlights video improves on previous versions of Maverick Media productions in many ways, but also reminds the viewer that there's no substitute for being there.
At one-hour fifty-one minutes, it's the longest festival tape produced so far. It's also the most thorough look at a festival week, giving us mainly quick peeks at everything from the auction to prop tables to workshops to backstage production of the daily newsletter. The feature slots are saved for Sergei Ignatov, the stage championships and the shows, including a good deal of time well-spent at Club Renegade.
But it's a chronicle of the festival without much personality, a view through a keyhole that only infrequently involves us emotionally because it only infrequently looks at the participants eye-to-eye and asks them "How do you feel?" From a production standpoint, it may be impossible to provide both an emotionally engaging look at this emotion-laden week and make sure all events are covered. But this year's festival film could have been improved with more interviews.
For instance, there are many minutes of video of Sergei Ignatov practicing, answering questions, giving advice on proper form, signing autographs and performing in the public show. But not once does the Soviet superstar look directly into the lens and say in his quite passable English something like, "I'm happy to be here." The single instance of an interview is an interesting opinion rendered by Rick Rubenstein of Clockwork on the new awards format. Letting participants tell the audience about events in their own words would have made for a more interesting and personable production.
The film teases toward personal experience through some well-edited black and white footage of people before and after their performances. We see them pacing in grainy black and white backstage while the on-stage announcer introduces them, or announces them as award recipients. The black and white camera follows them until the moment they part the curtain, then an immediate cut to the front color camera presents them as the audience saw them next.
The crowning segment of this genre follows Ignatov's Public Show performance. The black and white camera follows him backstage after his successful 11 ring flash. Exhausted and elated, he is greeted by fellow performers. He and Anthony Gatto embrace, and then we are witness to the surprising, private moment when Ignatov unexpectedly sweeps Gatto up in his arms as they are about to return to stage for their final bows.
Besides the scene of Ignatov carrying Gatto onto the stage, the film captures several other "historic" moments from Festival '91. We witness the first introduction of the "loopie" at Club Renegade, Ignatov's final night ambush of Jeff Daymont at that same venue, Trixie's statement that she sometimes considers picking up three balls again but then realizes there's no reason to do so, and the audience's vocal disapproval of Doubble Troubble receiving only a silver medal.
Trixie and Ignatov receive special treatment as the honored guests at the festival. The video includes some wonderful old film of Trixie performing at the height of her career with Ice Capades and Ignatov during his American appearance in the late 1970s. The quality of the clips isn't good, but its veracity is a wonderful addition to the production and fine tribute to these two special jugglers.
All stage competitors are shown, with the segments of medalists and winners being much longer than those of non-medalists. It's nice, however, that everyone's appearance is acknowledged and at least a sample of their best work is shown. We see all the winning numbers runs, and joggling is well-presented by superimposing the results over general sights and sounds from those races.
The graphics are far and away the best ever in a festival tape. The superimposed names of performers and their honors are colorful and high-tech, giving the production a professional touch lacking in past editions. The titles are also pleasantly comprehensive, recapping all winners and times.
There is more workshops footage than in the past, but still just a cursory glimpse at several sessions. The awards ceremonies for championships and IJA special awards are handled about as quickly and respectfully as can be done, leaving out the long-winded citations in favor of warm scenes such as one of Trixie Larue receiving a bouquet of roses.
Production-wise, it's the best IJA festival tape yet. The quality of the film is high throughout except for some dizzyingly shaky camera work at the beginning. The challenge to the film crew in Montreal will be to recreate all this and give it more soul, too!
by Bill Giduz
Dave Finnigan has spent most of his adult life spreading the fun and challenge of juggling to hundreds of thousands of young people. The former IJA education director and creator of "Professor Confidence" recently received the first IJA Excellence in Education Award for his efforts. Finnigan is well-known for incorporating a wide variety of teaching styles and techniques to help children learn, while at the same time encouraging a positive self-image. Now we have a new video of Finnigan's teaching entitled JuggleTime. This video is a solid demonstration of his enthusiasm, creativity and skill through the art of juggling.
Finnigan uses scarves to help children "chunk down" the various cascade movements into manageable bits. Each new bit of the technique is taught through the use of imaginative songs, written and performed by Joey Kline. I particularly liked the wide variety of song styles and rhythms that are used: from folk song and ballad tunes, to 50's versions of rock 'n' roll and even a Calypso number. The songs (such as "The Juggle Bug Rock," "Infinity Sign," "Criss-cross Applesauce," and "Juggle-uggle-uggle-uggle-uggle-ing") average about three minutes and are lip-synched by the cast who wear a wide variety of sometimes outrageous costumes.
The tape may be played a section at a time, or all the way through at once. Energetic graphic and camera tricks enliven the proceedings. By the end of this video, the average young person should be merrily tossing scarves in a number of patterns. I'm also willing to bet that very few adults will be able to sit by and just watch their child learn to these tunes without a bit of toe tapping or sing-along themselves.
I have two small criticisms. The lip-synching is often quite erratic, rarely looking like the person on camera is actually doing it. There are even a number of moments where we see the performer forget what he is supposed to be singing and the result is clumsy. A bit more practice and care in this would vastly improve the professional quality of the performances. Second, it would have been nice to have seen an older woman involved in the silliness.
Still, there is real charm to seeing these adults and children enjoying themselves and playing strongly to the viewer. Much of the power of the tape comes through seeing children modeling the step-by-step process. This is one video that never forgets its purpose is to create a confident, positive and creative atmosphere in which young people can learn to the best of their abilities. The short length of the tape makes it ideal even for very young children. I showed my copy to my four-year-old and, although he only made it to "Criss-cross, Applesauce," he had a lot of fun and took the challenges presented enthusiastically.
Dave Finnigan demonstrates a wonderful lesson: juggling is as much an attitude as a set of skills. I highly recommend JuggleTime for children and teachers of children.
by Craig Turner