When you think of the word ‘juggling’, you probably think of a circus where a clown is tossing several balls or other objects up into the air at once. Popular circus acts include juggling with fire, sticks and knives. However, contact juggling is different from the traditional circus juggling in that the objects never leave the hands/body of the juggler. Despite the name ‘juggling’, the balls are never really juggled in the air since the person juggling never actually releases them.
Contact juggling is an art form which can be quite intense, both for the performer and the audience. The object(s) used, usually glass balls, appear to effortlessly glide across the hands, arms and shoulder of the person juggling with them. Seasoned contact jugglers can balance the balls on their fingertips and can even make the object appear to be defying gravity while attached to a part of their hand or arm.
What are the different movements in contact juggling?
There isn’t just one way to do contact juggling properly – there are several movements that you can learn and which have been used widely in the past.
- Palm Rolling: This isn’t the best movement if you’re standing a distance away from a crowd, but if you want something to impress your friends with, the palm roll is a good place to start. With just one ball, try to roll it around your palm without dropping the ball. When you feel comfortable doing that, you can add an extra ball and then another. Eventually, you will be able to roll the balls on top of each other while they are all balanced on your palm. You can also switch the balls to the other hand and move your hands around and over the balls to create an impressive illusion.
- Head Rolling: This is one of the more difficult movement in contact juggling to master, and it’s not one which many beginners attempt. It involves rolling the ball around the head and balancing it on certain points, such as the temples, the top of the head, the center of the forehead or the eye socket. A very impressive move to perform to an audience, it takes an incredible amount of concentration. Some jugglers are able to do the head roll while also doing some palm rolling movements.
- Isolation: One of the most recognisable types of contact juggling, there are several movements which make the ball look like it is isolated from the juggler. This is mainly done through sleight of hand techniques and by exposing certain parts of the ball to the audience so that they cannot see it moving.
When did contact juggling become popular?
Michael Moschen was the main man responsible for the introduction of contact juggling into popular culture, and his show Light, which began in the 80s, featured himself using eight balls at the same time to carry out the act which soon became known as contact juggling.
By 1986, contact juggling had well and truly way its way into Western culture, and David Bowie‘s famous movie Labyrinth featured Monschen carrying out the act while stood behind Bowie’s character. It wasn’t popular knowledge that it wasn’t actually Bowie doing the contact juggling, although Michael Moschen was fully credited for the movie’s crystal ball manipulation (contact juggling) scene.
During the 1990s, contact juggling continued to receive widespread attention, and many people began to hone the act and start performing it themselves. This led to debates and controversy over whether the intellect copyright of Michael Moschen was being stolen by certain individuals and groups. Books were published teaching people how to contact juggle, and DVDs and magazine began to be circulated, leading to further discussion about whether or not the publishers and promoters were stealing intellectual property.
Contact Juggling – Where is it now?
Even if you’ve never heard the phrase, you’ll have seen contact juggling at some point. Contact jugglers have taken part on popular TV shows, such as America’s Got Talent, while famous international companies such as Cirque du Soleil have employed them in the past to include in their world-famous circus shows.