Monday, August 18, 2008

Scott Seltzer

This week I am featuring an interview with the very talented Scott Seltzer. This interview actually has a lot of personal meaning for me because one of the first juggling videos I watched online was his Open Juggling performance from one of the Israeli juggling conventions. It is not a cliché when I say that his juggling is truly inspiring.

Behind the Juggler Presents: Scott Seltzer

Name, how old are you, and for how long have you been juggling?
My name is Scott Seltzer and I’m 37 years old. I learned how to juggle 3 balls in 1978 but started juggling more seriously (clubs, 4+ balls, passing) in October of 1992 when I came to Israel. My first roommate at the time had just gotten into juggling. He had “The Complete Juggler,” some professional beanbags, and Beard Beach Clubs. Since I had a good foundation with the cascade (14 years by then) and a few basic tricks, it was easy for me to learn clubs and new tricks quickly. We had a blast practicing and put together a routine for a talent show. That was really the start of my serious obsession with juggling.

At what point did you know that juggling was what you wanted to do, and would make up
a critical part of your life?
I’ve been totally obsessed since 1993.

To date, what is the most unusual thing or set of things that you have juggled?
My trademark in my shows is egg juggling. I devised numerous humorous ways to juggle them and splatter them all over me and around me. I do tricks with 3, 4, 5, and sometimes 7 eggs. I break about 2 dozen or more eggs in every show.

I also perform with a 10 kilo pumpkin (or watermelon) and 2 balls. And I have another routine where I play a kazoo while I juggle it and 2 balls. I never performed it, but I can juggle and play a song with 3 kazoos while showering them in and out of my mouth. Another original thing I sometimes perform is 3 opened hedgetrimmers (think a big X with 2 handles and 2 sharp blades).

What has your juggling career entailed so far?
I started street performing in the summer of 1993 on Ben Yeudah Street, a pedestrian mall in the center of Jerusalem. It started out more like practicing in public but some performer friends gave me advice and by the end of the summer I had a fairly polished torch juggling routine.

In the fall of 1993, I got a great gig at a Roman-themed restaurant in the Old City of Jerusalem. I did a comedy juggling routine that included juggling impressions of different religions and of ancient Roman architecture. I ate apples, juggled a watermelon, and did fire juggling, too. I did about 200 shows/year there (in the evenings so also maintained my day job in hi-tech) and worked there until 1999.

I took a break from performing when I moved out to the country and had my first child in 1999.

In 2003, I started my comeback and did a few big community shows and started doing more birthdays and bar/bat mitzvahs, which is basically what I do these days. I’ve also performed in malls and schools and other large community events.

In the summer of 2007, I was on the TV show, "HaMofaah HaBilti Nitpas" (the Israeli version of America's Got Talent) doing something I had never performed before. They said that they already had enough jugglers participating so I put together a routine of balancing things on my face. It was fairly standard balancing stuff, but I had one big trick – throwing a baseball cap behind my back to a nose balance and then juggling 3 clubs while maintaining the balance. You can watch a clip here:

I still work in hi-tech but do a handful of shows each month.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I was the finale performer at the Israeli show of the Israeli juggling conventions a few years ago. It’s great to be recognized by your peers and I still get people coming up to me years later telling me how much they liked my act.

How many of each type of props do you juggle?
Balls: I perform 15-20 throws of 7, I can qualify 8, and do more than a flash with 9.
Clubs: I perform 5 clubs and in practice can do dozens of tricks with 5 clubs. I have done more than flash with 6 and 12 throws of 7 clubs.
Rings: I don’t really juggle rings but can do many tricks with 5 and have flashed 7.

I don’t work on numbers at all anymore. My favorite is really tricks with 5 balls or clubs.

Do you specialize in any auxiliary props or non juggling circus arts?
I am pretty good with a yo-yo and diabolo. I can do basics with nearly everything.

Generally speaking, do you wear socks while you juggle?
Only when people pay me enough money (i.e. when I perform)! I wear sandals 365 days/year and I practice in them or barefoot.

At what types of venues do you usually perform?
Bar/bat mitzvahs and birthday parties are my main thing. Occasionally community shows in malls, community centers, synagogues, municipal functions, etc. Since I have a day job, I can’t really do schools and camps and such.

Anything amusing or unique ever happen at one of these shows?
Well, I’ll share with you some of my favorite audience responses. Once a parent told a girl to thank me for my performance and she came over and said, “I love you!” - that was truly sweet! Once a very little boy didn’t know how to express himself with words so he just came over and gave me a hug. Recently I even had an ultra-Orthodox rabbi give me a hug after my show. I don’t get them often, but I’ve had a few standing ovations which are amazing.

Are you a clown?
Nope. My show is fairly technical but I do have some humor that is fairly clown-like. I do eat apples in my show.

What makes up a standard juggling practice for you?
I mostly work on 4 and 5 clubs. I never warm up and for years started with 5 clubs but recently have been starting with 4 clubs sometimes. I have a small handful of tricks that I’ve been working on for years and occasional new tricks. I can spend 30 minutes or more on repeating attempts of a single trick and I never get bored or frustrated. At my age and infrequent practice regimen, I don’t improve so quickly anymore – but I still have a great time trying!

What is it that will make you want to pick up your props tomorrow and keep juggling?
I really love juggling. I like the challenge of trying what was once impossible. I still impress myself with new accomplishments. I also enjoy creating new tricks and showing off for jugglers.

What goals are you currently working towards?
Some tricks I’ve been working on recently are (all with clubs): 5551 with 5s backcrossed (in either triples or doubles), 5551 with the 5s backcrossed and the 1 placed on my nose directly into 3 clubs with balance, 3 clubs with a balance and continuously changing which club is balanced (placing in a new club just as one is dropped down). With 5 clubs: 95551, backcrosses, 4 clubs with balance, 744, and 645.

Which prop is your favorite to juggle? Any specific reasoning?
Recently I’m more into clubs but a couple summers ago I almost only worked on balls (5 ball 3- and 5-up pirouettes, 5 and 6 ball siteswaps, and 7 ball endurance).

Are there any specific jugglers that inspire you?
Sure. Historically, I’ve been impressed with Evgeni Bilauer, Alexander Kiss, Francis Brunn, Bobby May, and Bob Bramson. Modern Technical favorites include Jason Garfield, Thomas Dietz, Anthony Gatto, Vova Galchenko. And Creative Technical stars are Jay Gilligan, Wes Peden, Ori Roth, Yanos, Sebas.

Do you have any “claims to fame” in the juggling community?
I had a lot of influence in the mid to late 90s because I had a fair amount of unique online videos.

I created the IJDb video database and was instrumental in creating the IJDb. I’m the 20th most prolific writer on rec.juggling (according to IJDb stats).

In the Israeli juggling community, I’m very active. I’m involved in the organizing of our convention and I’ve performed numerous times. People still come up to me at the convention every year telling me how much they liked my routines that I performed several years back.

I have one of the biggest commercial video collections in the world.

Where do you see yourself in terms of juggling in a month, a year, 10 years?
I would love to practice more and perform more but I’d be satisfied with more of the same.

It’s interesting about when I get older. I’ve already got some grey hairs and I wonder if I should change some of the silliness out of my show? Will it be appropriate for someone in their late 40s? I’m not sure what will be…

Art or Sport?
I’ll pass for now on this one. I’ve written a bit on r.j about it so search the archive.

Balls, Beanbags, or Russians?
I’ve been using SuperCharlie bags in practice and performance since he first created them in the early 90s. He changed the recipe for his main line but still makes me a custom version that are the most catchable bag I’ve ever used.

Generally, I reserve the last question for anything the juggler would like to let us know about him that the rest of the questions didn’t have time for, but this time around I’m going to take the opportunity to express my personal thanks to Scott for everything he has given the juggling community over the years. Without the IJDb and the Video section I can’t imagine ever being able to get into juggling. His juggling is inspiring and I really wish everyone would take the chance to watch one of his videos and to take the time to thank him for his hard work.

Interested in being interviewed for “Behind the Juggler”? E-mail me at

-David Stephens
Just your typical Juggler Next Door
Sponsored by:

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Flying Clipper

Over the past couple of months I have had the privilege of testing and juggling of Flying Clipper’s Tossaballs. The specific model I was using was their Hybrid 2.55” inch Orange Balls.

Flying Clipper can be found here:

The specific ball I was using:

I figure that rather than giving a typical review, I would present this as only I can, as a Behind the Juggler interview with Jim Fitzgerald, co-founder of Flying Clipper. So, “Behind the Juggler” proudly presents:

Behind the Balls: Flying Clipper

It seems that Flying Clipper has a huge focus on footbagging, and understandably so from reading through your “About Us” and FAQ sections. When did the company start moving towards incorporating Juggling Bags as well?

We have been making juggle balls since the very beginning. All if our footbag designs were enlarged to make juggle balls. As you have read, we (the partners) followed the footbag sport and competed at the world championship level but we have also been jugglers for fun. Most footbaggers juggle. Check out Peter Irish. He is doing the kind of movement that footbaggers have dreamed about for years. Using hands and feet together is what is fueling our latest line of products, the Hybrids.

How many workers does the company employ for the actual assembly of the bags?

Right now about 20 people, the partners being retired from production sewing for a few years now, sewing more than 100,000 footbags and 50,000 juggle balls between them.

Obviously your bags have a high number of panels in comparison with other Juggling props on the market, what advantages do you see the extra panels give your bags?

We have made juggle balls from four panel construction to sixty two panel construction. The roundest pattern we have found is the pentagonal dodecca hedron..
We also are designing a rhomboidal dodecca hedron for a near future release.

How do you find the process of designing and making juggling bags compares to footbags?

Designing is the fun part, coming up with new ideas to make a better “mouse trap”. All of our products are hand made and therefore labor intensive. Juggle balls are as easy or difficult to design as footbags, but of course the parameters for each are different.

Explain about your concept of “hybrid” juggling balls, what makes them “hybrid”?

Hybrids are our attempt to “crossover” as it were, and bridge the gap between hands and feet.
Also hybrid juggle balls/footbags are an attempt to add heavy and light filler on the interior of the ball in an innovative way. The concept isolates heavy filler on the outside rim of the ball while light filler material on the interior gives the ball volume. Heavy filler material is trapped between two layers of fabric leaving most of the balls weight on the outside of the rim. The physics of such a design, we believe, gives the ball several advantages over all other hand made balls.
1. true flight
2. double durability (two layers of material)
3. rolls like a contact juggle ball
4. easy to stall
5. complete washability
6. keeps its shape

In my experience a lot of bags are filled with millet or a similar material, what fillings do the Tossaballs use?

Footbags are filled with plastic pellets or sand. Our juggle balls traditionally have been filled with millet (seed) or plastic pellets. Millet never has set well with us because organic material breaks down, especially if it gets wet and also some people are allergic to millet, etc.. On the other hand plastic pellets usually do not give the juggle ball enough weight. Adding crushed rock adds enough weight to make a superior juggle ball.

Where did the name “Flying Clipper” originate?

Our home town of Eugene, Oregon is the birth place of footbag freestyle. As far as anyone knows, the first footbag trick ever done was the flying clipper and that is how we took our name.


Tossaball® is our registered trade name for our line of juggle balls and they are very “Tossable”. We considered other names but felt Tossaball was the most playful.

I know your products have a lot of history behind them, so tell us about the history as well as awards and competitions that your products have won.

As far as competitions or awards for our products, I cannot say, however we have been producing footbags and juggle balls for more than 26 years now. Approximately 20 years ago an article was sent to us that showed the results of several different manufacturers’ juggle balls being dropped from a ten story building onto the street in Chicago. Ours was stated as the only one that survived the impact. We build our products to last. Rhys Thomas of the Portland (Oregon) jugglers has Flying Clipper juggle balls he has juggled that are more than 15 years old and are still going strong. Many pro jugglers and footbaggers come to our products because of our quality standards and our commitment to service. I guess that is more of a reward than an award but it keeps us going.

End of Interview

Needless to say, Flying Clipper creates incredibly durable and well made balls.

I might as well tell a little about my personal juggling ability so that anyone reading this can know where my opinions are originating. Juggling wise, I can juggle 7 balls, but I spend the vast majority of my time working on 3-5. I am particularly proud of some of my three ball work, but find no pattern more relaxing then a 5 ball cascade. As many jugglers know, the bulk of my time contributing to the juggling world is spent working on the Synergy Projects, as well as with my Behind the Juggler interviews.

As far as balls go, I have juggled my fair share since I started juggling. Originally I used “klutz” bags, and then moved on to lacrosse balls. I can most likely attribute the cleanness of my 5 ball pattern to the use of lacrosse balls and their tendency to fly away if even the slightest collision is made. After that I started to make my own which was quite an experience unto itself. I made everything from 4 -8 paneled bags, though they were hardly ever spherical. I currently am using 6 panel fergie-like bags.

These hybrid Tossaballs are certainly bags that I could not even dream of making on my own. The intricate design patterns detailed above are simply a wonder to behold. Flying Clipper creates a bag that no other juggling company can, because they have the knowledge of footbaggers. I have had the privilege of watching Peter Irish perform and there is nothing quite like the kind of manipulation that footbaggers can accomplish when mixing juggling and footbagging. That is exactly the idea that Flying Clipper is attempting to capture with their hybrid products. It is the fusion of footbags and juggling bags.

I personally do not footbag, and I so I bring a different perspective. I did wonder at first how these neon orange bags were going to hold up and handle. The first thing that of course deserves note is the fantastic color. I really needed something that would show up against both sky and gym, and these balls definitely do the trick. Of course the shape is another aspect that cannot be understated. The 12 panel hybrid design creates a near perfect sphere. Thanks to the unique “hybrid” design, they do not lose their shape or “sag” while they are in the air. At the same time they are able to come to a stop after being dropped without rolling away. They accomplish this much better than my set of MMX balls.

An understandable worry regarding any set of bags is how they will break in over time. Tossaballs not only break in to a comfortable and relaxing feel, but they do not lose their shape. No doubt due to their “hybrid” design and mixed filling, the bags consistently keep their roundness. In fact one comment I got about these bags were that the person thought they were oranges. In this case that is a definite compliment to Flying Clipper for creating great looking bags. [Trust me, I know about citrus comments because my personally handmade yellow bags were once called “lemons” and that’s how I know I did a bad job sewing them]

In terms of normal wear and tear, I would say that these bags hold up equally if not better than most that I have juggled. Simple soap and water will clean up scuffs and marks. Cleaning also brings back a bit of the luster of the color which understandably will begin to fade over time.

At first I only used these bags for my 4 + work because I did not like the feel that they had with my 3 ball patterns. Over time as they began to break in, I found them a solid substitute for some of my lower patterns. These balls have a unique property in that they almost seem to “float” through the air. Physics tells me that this isn’t the case, but be that as it may I still feel as though they have a great ability to hang. For this reason I really enjoy using these bags for my juggling with more than three objects. They really give patterns a great solid look and feel that cannot be found in “saggy” or “rock hard” bags.

Tossaballs look great, feel great, and juggle great; I have no qualms about slapping my seal of approval on these bags!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jamie White

Name, how old are you, and for how long have you been juggling?

I’m Jamie White and I’m 22 years old. I’ve been juggling 2 years seriously, but knew how to juggle 3 balls in the shower pattern and a sloppy cascade since I was somewhere between the ages of 7 and 10. I also juggled the 4 ball shower a bit, probably for just over a qualify.

At what point did you know that juggling was what you wanted to do, and would make up
a critical part of your life?

I knew I was obsessed when I juggled near Posvar Hall on the lawn at the University of Pittsburgh in the summer of 2006. Seeing 5 and 7 ball patterns, including 5 ball siteswaps in person made me very motivated to keep at it. I also have always liked how it can be a social activity where you don’t really need to socialize.
I know what you mean. Jugglers have become experts at standing in a group and throwing their balls up in the air without bothering each other. Really, who else can claim that except for us?

To date, what is the most unusual thing or set of things that you have juggled?

3 pineapples, I guess. I qualified them at a store called “Aldi’s” quite some time ago.

What has your juggling career entailed so far?

I have only done 1 performance (a friend asked me to, I really did not want to or enjoy it) but have a couple paying gigs lined up this summer. I was kind of talked into doing them by other people though, and don’t really plan to pursue further juggling employment opportunities. If they come to me like these ones did though, I will probably do it again.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a hobby driven juggler, though I’m sure many will disagree with me on that point. I find that when I am practicing for performance I have to work on the audience pleasing tricks that aren’t necessarily the tricks I want to be working on at the time. Do you keep the audience in mind at all in your normal practice or would it be safe to assume that this is mainly a hobby for your personal enjoyment?

Thinking about it, it really is just the latter. I only thought of the audience when I was preparing for that performance and the audition for this upcoming thing (the Pittsburgh Regatta and Tour of Pennsylvania). I can say though, that juggling will not be a temporary thing for me like some hobbyist jugglers.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Skill-wise, probably 8 ball qualifies. Otherwise, I guess the performance I did because I did not drop.

How many of each type of props do you juggle?

This is always a hard question. I think I can call myself a 6 ball juggler but am not sure I can yet call myself a 7 ball juggler. Just to feel awesome, I will say 7 balls, 4 clubs, and I don’t do rings but did 5 in the past. I work on balls with 9/10ths of my time and clubs for the other tenth.

Considering your mentioning of your 8 ball qualifies just a moment ago, what do you prefer working on: “numbers” or 3-4 ball “tricks”? Do you prefer a creative approach to juggling more common in the low numbers, or do you prefer the high technicality of an 8 ball qualify?

I like the technical aspect of juggling but there are often patterns I like because of how they look or feel as well. I have been telling myself that 7 balls is enough, and once I get that relatively solid I’ll only work on 8+ balls occasionally. Actually, I don’t really work on 8+ balls anymore, due to arm pain, but that is slowly getting better. I work on getting lower numbered stuff smooth as much as I can because a solid pattern feels awesome. I also realize that numbers juggling can only go so far for anyone and if you want to keep juggling you should be able to appreciate and enjoy other aspects of it. For me, I think this will be how a pattern feels. Let me explain that. I think I will be able to continue juggling because of how patterns feel once they are solid and run-able. Certain patterns just feel awesome no matter how many balls or clubs there are.

Do you specialize in any auxiliary props or non juggling circus arts?


I realize that this is not at all juggling related, but do you have any other talents, skills or hobbies? I don’t want you getting off on that last question quite that easy.

Oh my. Well, I play piano and got into school on it for music composition. I also have a knack for mathematics and am double majoring in it.

Generally speaking, do you wear socks while you juggle?

Yeah almost all the time.

At what types of venues do you usually perform?

My one and only performance was at a school, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA.

Anything amusing or unique ever happen at one of these shows?

Well, I did not know there were overhead lights at the show and when I went into 3 ball overheads was nearly blinded but survived.

Are you a clown?

No. If someone wants to be a clown that juggles, go ahead. I really don’t like the idea of jugglers being laughed at for juggling though. I think it is a skill that should be treated with the respect of other skills, like playing the piano or tennis.

Do you really think that a juggler should be held on the same level as a pianist? Surely a piano player would laugh at this hypothesis. How exactly can we as jugglers go about getting the “respect” we deserve?

This question is freaking awesome, because I just mentioned that I am a pianist in that other question and you did not know that. Anyway, I don’t laugh at that hypothesis at all (some pianists might, though). Of course jugglers should be thought of in the same regard, if not higher. The highest leveled jugglers, technically, have probably dedicated themselves to their craft as much as the best concert pianists. I think the main thing jugglers can do to garner respect is to just keep juggling and showing other people how to juggle. There are probably better measures, though.

Alright fair enough on me missing the piano part. Even David Stephens isn’t perfect.
What makes up a standard juggling practice for you?

I always stretch first, probably for like 2-5 minutes. Then I will do basic 3 ball stuff. Pirouettes, showers on both sides. Basically trying to do everything as solid as possible. Then I move on to 4 balls, again doing some shower stuff as well as possible on both sides. I don’t think about it much, but apparently I try to shower on both sides a lot. It really shows in the solidity of my right handed showers (I’m left handed) but unfortunately I have never really felt it transfer to other stuff...It’s just such a different trick that uses your brain in a different way, I think. I will do some 4 ball pirouettes, as well as possible. I will generally do 53 all 4 ways for a bit. I guess this is all part of my warm up. I had been doing overheads with 4 a lot, but my arms hurt and I have been avoiding them lately.

Then, I will move on to 5 balls where I guess my real practice begins. I feel bad because I don’t like to start this section of my practice without all the build-up stuff, but once I get here it feels good. Right now my obsession is 3 period 5 ball siteswaps like 753,744,645(both ways), and 663. I’ll also work on 3 ups into and out of these. Sometimes I will do a 5 up, but I don’t feel like I should try to solidify that one yet. I had also been getting overheads but haven’t done them lately. I generally work on stuff that people around me are working on because it is easier for me to understand the pattern.
The end of my practice usually consists of 7 ball cascade stuff, but lately I have been getting back to 6 ball stuff. I’m close to the 4 up and have gotten it cleanly in wimpy and synch, but I don’t think I have qualified after while doing it asynch yet.

You mention juggling with the people around you, is it safe to say that you juggle with others a lot? Obviously you are active in a juggling club.

I do juggle with the people at my club a lot. It is a very small juggling club, though, and right now there are only 3 regulars including myself.

What is it that will make you want to pick up your props tomorrow and keep juggling?

Seeing videos and being motivated, but most of all the guys at my juggling club!

What goals are you currently working towards?

7 ball cascade over 100 catches and more consistent 30+ catch runs. I also work towards better endurance lately as my arms suck. This mostly consists of cardio (bike riding or running), pushups and crunches.

Which prop is your favorite to juggle? Any specific reasoning?

Balls/beanbags. Probably because they are my best prop. Also, I don’t juggle rings. I did for a couple months but did not really like them. I also have only done clubs on and off because the guy that motivates me to do clubs is only here in the summers.

Are there any specific jugglers that inspire you?

The most inspired I have ever been was by this video:
Otherwise, I am also inspired by seeing videos of people working on stuff I’m working on. This makes me motivated to go out and try it more. Pretty anti-original but I don’t think I am far along enough to go for my own style.

Do you have any “claims to fame” in the juggling community?

Not really. The “Pittsburgh Jugglers” series is pretty sweet, but I’m always doing sloppy stuff in them. I’m in Synergy I though! There is also a guy at my juggling club that is progressing insanely fast and might end up doing something with it.

Where do you see yourself in terms of juggling in a month, a year, 10 years?

In a month, probably about where I am right now. Hopefully my arms will be a bit stronger, cause right now I am taking frequent breaks.
In a year, I will hopefully be over 100 catches with 7 balls and have more consistency. I can do it if I practice more than I did last year while school was in session.
In 10 years...I don’t know.

Art or Sport?

It can be both but I see it much more from the sport perspective. I also see it as a social activity that falls into neither category, like a game.

Balls, Beanbags, or Russians?

I juggle beanbags most. I also like rice-filled tennis balls. I hate the feeling of stage balls.

If there is one thing you would like the juggling community to know about you, what would it be?

I try really hard.

Grace Bidgood

Behind the Juggler Presents: Grace Bidgood

Name, how old are you, and for how long have you been juggling?
My name is Grace Bidgood, I’m seventeen, and I have been juggling for about a year and three months.

At what point did you know that juggling was what you wanted to do, and would make up a critical part of your life?
I guess at the beginning. I took up juggling after a hard year of struggling with shoulder problems and surgery. I found juggling didn’t hurt like my other activities did and I discovered I have a natural talent to do it.

To date, what is the most unusual thing or set of things that you have juggled?
Hamburger patties, using spatulas instead of my hands, it got messy quickly.

Was that at all successful? I have played around with trying to juggle tennis balls using racquets and baseballs using gloves etc but have always found the substitute “hands” to not function nearly as well.
No, it wasn’t very successful… it ended in disaster.

What has your juggling career entailed so far?
Well lots of shows, and the lessons that come with performing, like learning how to treat an audience, or learning what people like to see in a juggling act. Juggling has also enabled me to socialize with people, young and old, it has given me a chance to talk with them.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Probably opening my business, Juggling with Grace. It takes a lot just to open a business, but there is also advertising and getting your name out there. I’m also proud that I broke seven balls before a year had even passed.

At this point I have to ask the obvious given your name and your usage with the juggling, am I safe to assume that faith plays a large role in your life/juggling or would that assumption be completely off?
Yes, it does, I like to use it for examples during the talks I give during my small group situations.

There are many jugglers who use a Christian message. Chris Fowler and myself both have fathers who are pastors and as such you will notice a lot of our videos shot inside of churches since they are also great places to practice! David Cain of course is another great example. How many of each type of props do you juggle?
I can juggle seven balls, six rings, and five clubs.

Do you specialize in any auxiliary props or non juggling circus arts?
No, not specialize, but I do mess around with devil sticks, or crystal sticks.

Crystal sticks sound like a drug from the Star Wars Universe, what exactly are they?
It’s another name for devil sticks, some people call devil sticks crystal sticks, it does sound like something in Star Wars though.

Generally speaking, do you wear socks while you juggle?
Yes I do, but I try to practice wearing shoes that I would wear while doing a show.

That’s actually a very practical answer. At what types of venues do you usually perform?
Schools are the most frequent and then small festivals around town.

Anything amusing or unique ever happen at one of these shows?
During one of the shows I did for an elementary school I dropped a ring off stage and the kids started fighting over who got to put it back on stage because who would miss out on touching a ring from the juggler? I had to break it up before they bent my ring.

Are you a clown?
No I am not a clown, never, never, ever.

What makes up a standard juggling practice for you?
After I stretch I usually do the basics of balls, rings, clubs, and then I work on specific tricks, then numbers, and finally end with improvisation time where I try to be as creative as possible. Then I stretch again. This routine would change a little while I would be filming.

What is it that will make you want to pick up your props tomorrow and keep juggling?
My mom, I want her to be proud of my accomplishments when I meet her. It is also a way for me to express myself and release stress so it is quite necessary at times.

What goals are you currently working towards?
I want to be able to express feelings and messages through my juggling, so I’m working on being more expressive in my body movement and juggling. I also want to teach other teens how to juggle so they can relax when they’re stressed.

I personally have found over the years of juggling, that it is no longer a way to combat stress. When I am feeling stressed and attempt to juggle it only makes matters worse as I’ll get into fights with my props for not doing what I want them to. Often I find that juggling is one of the most stressful things that I do because I have a vision in my mind that I want to see in the air. How do you ensure that your juggling remains a stress reliever and not fall into the same traps that I have?
I do fall into that trap sometimes but it’s usually when I am working on really hard tricks, and I work on hard tricks when I’m stressed because when I do nail the trick I feel very good. So when I start getting frustrated I just work on easier tricks and lower numbers.

Which prop is your favorite to juggle? Any specific reasoning?
I like clubs the most; there are so many possibilities with them, like spinning, manipulation, and normal juggling. They’re also a favorite of audiences.

Since you bring up the view of the audience, how important is it to you to keep in mind the appeal of the visuals for the audience during your practice? Do you find yourself a “performance” motivated juggler, or a “hobby’ motivated juggler?
Since I opened my entertaining business I have made sure that the routines I do are pleasing for both the audience to watch and for me to do

Are there any specific jugglers that inspire you?
A woman that I met at last years IJA named Melissa, she encouraged me to keep up juggling because she saw the potential in me.
Wes Peden is another inspiration to me I love his creativity.

Do you have any “claims to fame” in the juggling community?
Yes, last year I was awarded the Most Promising Female Juggler of 2007 by the Flamingo club.

Where do you see yourself in terms of juggling in a month, a year, 10 years?
In a month, in terms of numbers, I see myself solidifying my seven-ball cascade, along with six rings, and working on six clubs. In terms of artistic ability I will be working on making my body movement and juggling flow together. In a year, in terms of numbers, I see myself working on nine balls, seven or eight rings, and seven clubs. In terms of artistic ability, I hope to have a unique style and form. In ten years, whew, I hope to have a solid nine-ball cascade, a solid nine-ring cascade, and a solid seven-club cascade. I also hope to have plenty of performing experience and experiences under my belt, and to have a solidified creative style.

Lofty goals! I’m sensing an obvious passion for numbers juggling, but the creativity juices you are talking about makes me wonder about your lower numbers. What do you enjoy working on more? Also, which do you find it easier to be creative with?
I like lower numbers better because I can be more creative with the confidence I have with in my skill with lower numbers. I juggle numbers because I want women to be more respected in that area.

Art or Sport?
I think it depends on the mind-set of the person who will be juggling, for me I approach it with an artistic mind set, but to others it can be a sport, it’s up to them.

Balls, Beanbags, or Russians?
Sport juggling balls, I love them!

If there is one thing you would like the juggling community to know about you, what would it be?
I want to ultimately open a creative arts center where teens can come and learn art in all different forms, dancing, playing instruments, and even juggling. I want it to be a safe place where teens that have troubles can come and get counseling and learn how to deal with everyday stress and abuse by releasing their feelings through the arts that they can learn and develop at the center.

Dealing with stress as well as dealing with troubles is coming across as a very strong passion of yours. It is amazing that you have such clear life goals and aims while still being in your teens. I really hope everything works out for you the best that it can. I’m sure others will be interested in how everything works out for you, so be sure to keep us updated with everything over the next couple of years.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sondre Ribe Øverby

Name, how old are you, and for how long have you been juggling?

Sondre Ribe Øverby. I was 18 years old on the 31st of May, which happens to be the world's do-not-smoke-day. I am pretty proud of that, though it wasn't my own accomplishment.

I am not sure when I learned to juggle; I've always told people it was in August 2005 after one of my friends had learned 3 balls during summer holiday and passed it onto me, which it well might have been, but I have also believed it was right after my family's round trip in North America; In Chicago(I think) I saw a street juggler that I thought was awesome. But this was in 2003, so I am not sure when I got my hands around the 3 ball cascade.

Anyway, I discovered in February of 2006 that it was indeed possible to do more than 4 balls in less than 20 years of practice, even though I was at about 500 catches of 4 balls at the time. So having watched Peter Bone's “juggling in my room” video way too many times(is that possible?) I got a new set of beanbags – in fact, all I had from before were some home made ballon and rice thingies – and started practicing more than my friends thought seemed sane. So assuming I started practicing with a goal in February 2006, I have been juggling for pretty much exactly two and a half years.

At what point did you know that juggling was what you wanted to do, and would make up

a critical part of your life?

I don't know. But before I started juggling, I always knew that juggling was the most definite absolutely “awesomest” thing in the entire world, so maybe I always wanted it to?

To date, what is the most unusual thing or set of things that you have juggled?

I have juggled eggs(and held 21 in one hand! Haha! Oh but not on video. Or maybe it was? I have to check my harddrive - I remember having a good attempt on video, maybe it was that one). And I juggled a little kid and two beanbags once, like Ivan Pecel does in his show. Also I have juggled a shoe, a diabolo and a club for a random prop endurance I think. And at the chicken slaughtering at the place I work(yes, my part time job is to stack eggs in boxes, which is why I on occasion try to amuse myself(how is that amusing? Whatever.) by holding many in one hand.) I juggled 3 dead chickens after we were done.

What has your juggling career entailed so far?

Well, the career part would include performing in front of 1200 people once, and then busking in Oslo for half an hour when I had nothing better to do. I have performed on several other occasions though, but that has 4 times been part of the UKM(Norwegian talent show that does not air on TV and does not reward you with anything but the pride of going to the next round or the finals) and a couple volunteer show thingies. I've been booked to do a 4 minute act in August, and I will do some more busking in Oslo this summer when visiting some people.

Also, I got the Norwegian Lottery Service's “dream scholarship” of 10,000 NOK, uh, that's $1900 or so. Still, being one of 100 in the country who gets it is not bad. They give it out every year to kids and youngsters who do something interesting. That means, musicians. So when I “raised my hand” and I said I wanted it, there was basically no question since juggling was so original.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Juggling skill wise? Must be the 5 ball 1 high 4 low 5 up 720 which I nailed a few days ago. The siteswap is d88880000 if anyone wonders. It was not in a regular practice, seeing as it took more than 5 tries ;)

How many of each type of props do you juggle?
I have the 7 ball cascade almost solid, but have qualified 9 balls a lot of times, and I can flash 10 and probably 11 if I had bothered putting in the time for that.

I can maintain a shaky 4 club juggle and qualify 5 on occasion, and I have some 5 ring tricks and short runs of 6 rings. I think I have qualified 7 rings, and flashed 8.

Do you specialize in any auxiliary props or non juggling circus arts?
I do some acrobatics.

Generally speaking, do you wear socks while you juggle?
Yes. I prefer to wear shoes as well. But I don't wear socks when I wear sandals, which is almost as good as shoes. But most of the time it's too cold to wear sandals anyway.

At what types of venues do you usually perform?

Well, I guess that's semi-answered earlier, but so far I have done some street performing, and the other occasions have ranged from school related celebrations to the opening of the highway Lofast, where, as I mentioned, 1200 people were present. But the Queen(of Norway) had to leave before my act for some reason. But the occasions was so decently special that she was there.

So the answer is, “any”.

Anything amusing or unique ever happen at one of these shows?
I've had lots of fun being on stage. The annoying thing is that I am not afraid of being there; Give me a hundred million people audience and I will go right on there. But my body is so afraid. I have never had an adrenaline rush even close to as powerful as those I get on stage. So basically, my hands only obey my commands halfway decently. The other half of the time, I drop.

So no, not really anything unique. But I guess having fun is amusing in a way.

Are you a clown?


What makes up a standard juggling practice for you?

Warm up with some boring 5 ball tricks, then go through all the tricks and siteswaps I try to practice with 5 balls, move on to 6 and do the same there, and then 7. Eventually I'll go back to 5 to try some tricks that require more warming up. Sometimes I try 8 or 9 too, but never more than 3-4 attempts.

I practice pretty much only tricks I can get in 5 attempts or less. I don't want to waste time(seeing as there is none to waste right now). On occasion I'll add a new trick to my practice session and see how fast I learn it, but if it takes more than 5 tries in later sessions, I stop practicing that trick.

What is it that will make you want to pick up your props tomorrow and keep juggling?

I want to get better. Well, I guess I just want to have fun, but my idea of fun is to be a respected individual in a group(including the advantages this brings), and it appears that jugglers pay more respect and attention to one who is technically better than them*. Besides, juggling is much more fun if you can do almost any trick you want. I don't really have fun during my practices, except for if I learn something new or break a record, thereby showing myself I have gotten better and accomplished something. It's like working out; the action itself is not so much fun, but to see progress and to get a sense of accomplishment is great. An effect of this is increased self esteem.

*Hey! I am a nice guy, too!

What goals are you currently working towards?

I want to have 7 balls entirely solid by the end of the year, although I know that's not realistic due to my limited practice time. I'd also like to get more experience with being on stage so I can earn some money from this which I have spent so much time on. I am also saving money so I'll afford going to WJF5 in December.

On a long term basis, I'd like to get to a level, technically or show wise, where I can stay alive from the money I can earn from performing, or hopefully, competing too.

Which prop is your favorite to juggle? Any specific reasoning?
Balls. Because anything else is for wimps who like hurting their hands. That makes sense, yes?

But seriously, I don't have time for two or three props right now. Maybe during summer or next year when I have less schoolwork, but so far I don't feel like stressing through a session in order to learn three props; it will be even less fun to practice then. I already don't get enough time for ball practice.

Are there any specific jugglers that inspire you?
Thomas Dietz is awesome. I even hope my Dietz syndrome doesn't go away.

Apart from him, I've gotten a lot of inspiration from Peter Bone, who apart from being an amazing juggler is a great guy. He saved me from getting stuck in England after BJC08 when I missed the train to the airport because my bank card crashed and I couldn't buy tickets. These two guys share the top 3, in no particular order, with John Nations.

Do you have any “claims to fame” in the juggling community?

I put a lot of time into making good convention videos, and so far the feedback has only been “you make the best convention videos!”. I would like to show all the jugglers how much fun we have had at the conventions I've been to, and possibly attract more of them so the last point in this interview can be easier accomplished.

Also, I've made a few juggling tutorials. Hopefully I'll manage to get this running again, people seemed to like them. I'd also like to teach as many people juggling as possible, and tutorials will help.

Where do you see yourself in terms of juggling in a month, a year, 10 years?
A month... right here or on vacation visiting some friends in Oslo, where I will also try busking a bit.

A year... in the country finals of the UKM. I just need less drops and I'll be there, no question. Maybe I'll make it to the first round of the Norwegian version of “America's got talent” assuming they are making another season, too. Or second round? That would surely help me getting gigs.

10 years... who knows? Maybe I am a professional, maybe I only have it as a hobby, or maybe I have a “real” job and perform a little, too. Anyway I'm going to be a good juggler by then.

Art or Sport?

As Jason Garfield says, it can very well be both, but it is only an art when put in the hands of an artist and presented in that way, and vice versa. The reason I don't like “art” juggling so much, is that it generally sucks because so few of the jugglers doing it are in fact artists. It's like painting or poetry - a lot of it sucks, only the real artists make it good. The point about sport juggling is to me not that it's a sport, but that it takes real technical skill – for sure. In art you can do well with both technical juggling or crappy skills, but in sport juggling you must be good for sure. And when there is a competition, this is an opportunity for the athletes to get rewarded for the time they put into learning all they can do.

If art juggling took a lot of hard work and dedication to do well, I would prefer there to be competitions for these as well, so they could be rewarded for the time they put into it. If you have spent a long time learning something that is in fact difficult, you should be rewarded. But then this would be a competition in technical skill again, and it would become a sport. Besides, you cannot say one artist is better than another artist. They do completely different things, and it's all about the taste of the audience. When talking about pure technical skill, you can have two jugglers doing different moves, but still you can tell who is better based off of what moves are harder, assuming they are pushing their limits all the time, and not just playing with easy stuff – like art jugglers apparently tend to do. How could you do “the most technical art juggling?”

So basically, I like art juggling when a good art juggler does it – although there are practically none of these – and I like sport juggling when a technically good juggler does this. Well, it doesn't have to be in a competition really. The competing part is just to make technical jugglers want to become even better, and in the competitions you get a fair sense of how good they are based off of what moves they have solid and whatnot. And it's fair that they get rewarded when they are better than somebody else. Besides, they have fun.

One other thing that I've been wondering about, is why some “art” jugglers say that “no, I don't want the sport jugglers with their crappy attitude, mean looks and throwing down of the props”. Now, the mean looks comes from the very special character that Jason Garfield used to play, and from none else as far as I have ever seen. This was a CHARACTER. So, there ARE no mean looks. Then the attitude. I have never met or heard about a sport(WJF) juggler that has a worse attitude than some of the “art” jugglers that claim to have a better attitude. Actually, the art jugglers with the worst attitudes are so incredibly much worse than the sport jugglers with “equally” bad attitudes that it scares me they can claim to have a good attitude. I am not saying all art jugglers have this attitude, not many of them. Just a few. Of course, I like sport juggling more, so I am naturally going to defend sport jugglers. But I believe I am quite open minded. I will keep discussing this though, until we all agree.

Balls, Beanbags, or Russians?

2 months worth of breaking in on 3 inch 180g beanbags is the way to go – uh, for me anyway.

If there is one thing you would like the juggling community to know about you, what would it be?

I would like to meet them all and become their friend, and I intend to.

Ok, guys – if you see me at a convention, I want you to come over and say hi and talk to me. Remember, I spend about all my money every time I go to a convention(and then start saving for the next), so it would be unfair if you know I want to meet you, but then take away what I came there to see. So – see ya there, wherever it is!