View Full Version : Jugglers

06-13-2008, 01:17 AM
Does anyone out there juggle? Objects, that is, not tasks or time?

One of my characters in my fantasy WIP is a minstrel and an excellent juggler (she's also an accomplished pickpocket, but we won't go there ;) ). I'm not very familiar with juggling, so I'm looking for suggestions of what sort of props she might use, and what she could do for a specialty "wow-the-crowd" act. She usually performs outside in the marketplace or on a street corner.

When juggling different types of objects at the same time, how do you choose which objects? Objects which are about the same size or weight? Say an apple, an orange, a tea cup, a <fill in the blank>???

What's the limit for the number of objects? I usually see people juggling three things at a time.

Thanks in advance!

Tsu Dho Nimh
06-13-2008, 01:34 AM
Check juggling on YouTube ... they have instructional videos and some flashy exhibitions.

06-13-2008, 01:36 AM
Hi TheIT,

I hope you get a real expert to respond, but in the meantime, I can share what I know. I can juggle, but only three of the soft "hackey sack" type juggling balls.

That being said, I can tell you that it's easiest to juggle things that are the same weight and shape, because then your hands can go on autopilot and you don't have to do major adjustments for each item.

Juggling clubs is kind of the next move up, because not only do you have to have the standard underhand "weaving" pattern down, you also have to make the clubs flip so that the handle is in the perfect position for your hand to catch as it comes down. Imagine flipping a hairbrush in your hand and catching the handle every time. It's something like that.

Now, to wow crows, jugglers will sometimes add items (more balls, more clubs) or patterns (the overhand "weave", the fountain, there are lots others I'm sure you can get from a juggling book). I've seen jugglers do fruit (VERY hard because of irregularities in size/shape, at least...it has been for me :tongue).

The most impressive show I saw featured a juggler with three running chainsaws (very small ones that didn't have the chains on them) with a pole welded to each handle so the juggler could wield them in a similar fashion to clubs (with that flipping motion going). You could tell that they were very heavy and he couldn't do that for very long--AND he was a pretty muscular guy so that may or may not be appropriate for your character.

Some other things I've seen: rings, knives, an audience member tossing items into the midst of the items flying through the air and the juggler sweeping the new items into the rest without missing a beat (I can do this adding one ball to two :))

Oh and to answer your specific questions, generally you choose same size and weight, because the average viewer isn't going to be impressed unless the items are of drastically different size and weight, and only then because it looks different, not because it looks hard (and it is!)

I think you can do the underhand weave pattern with four items, but to go up higher, I think you have to switch to a different pattern, though I'm not sure. I know I've seen at least 6 things going at once.

Anyway, I hope that helps!

06-13-2008, 01:44 AM
Thanks! That helps.

Usually my character is going to be performing alone. When feeding more items into the pattern, how is that done? By someone throwing them in? Or could she grab something out of a pouch at her waist?

What if someone snatched something out of the pattern? Is it difficult to recover and continue with one less?

06-13-2008, 04:49 AM
I learned to juggle by doing two balls in one hand until I got the rhythm down, and then two balls in two hands (kinda annoying), until I could work in three. Switching from two, to three, to two objects is no big deal. I've seen shows where they've changed the pattern with more objects. It's just a matter of adjusting, and it comes Really easily when you are used to it. Now if someone threw you something that was heavier than expected...

On another note, my juggling studies went very wrong early on. A guy watched me once and called me a 'knuckle banger' or somesuch. He explained that I moved my hand forward and back, rather than side to side. If I stood against a wall I'd bang my hands. It was hard to break the habit, and you could use that if you have some self taught characters around your minstrel... maybe.


06-13-2008, 05:01 AM
Go pick up a copy of 'juggling for dummies', most of what you want to know is in there.

There are modern terms for the various patterns. "Cascade" "Weave" "Flash" - You could invent your own terms for these patterns for your fantasy world.

Watch some really good jugglers work. Different patterns are used for different effects as well as numbers of objects. It's possible to 'free up a hand' by switching the pattern, in order to pick up an extra object. That object could be 'handy' in a pouch, on a table - or whats always nice to see... 'out of reach'. Part of a good jugglers rep is to be able to stoop down and pick up a dropped object while still juggling - or add the object by 'kicking it up' into the air from near his/her feet.

One juggles solid objects, off-mass objects (like pins) and 'rings'.

I like to teach kids to juggle with scarves. They actually juggle in 'slow motion' because the lightweight scarves fall so slowly.

My juggling skills are only rudimentary, mostly balls, pins and scarves - and only three with any skill. But I've hung out with some of the best on the renfair circuit. Penn and Teller, The Juggling Raspyni Bros, Avner the Eccentric, Harry Anderson, The Zuchinni Bros and lots you've never heard of.

One of the coolest things to see 'after hours' is a whole bunch of jugglers - say six or a dozen, standing around juggling and tossing things to one another... amazing.

06-13-2008, 05:01 AM
Juggling rings - at first I thought that meant finger rings, but I guess that means those big circle rings which look like fancy frisbees...

One of the how-to books I've looked at suggested learning to juggle by juggling scarves because it takes a scarf a longer time to fall as long as the air is still. Would juggling a finger ring with a scarf tied through it be doable? I could see the tail of the scarf trailing like a comet, but I could also see the scarf getting tangled during a catch.

ETA: cross-posted with WriteKnight. :D Still wondering about whether a skilled juggler could recover from someone snatching an object out of the pattern. I'm guessing the answer is yes.

06-13-2008, 06:22 AM
Oh, absolutely. "Snatches" are part of the skillset. This is how you learn to juggle with a partner.

Juggling 'side by side' is another practice. You stand next to each other, arms around waists, and each person juggles the pattern with the 'outside' hand.

Really, there's no substitute for a bit of experience. I won't cost you much to pick up a set of scarves or balls, and start practicing. It's fun, and really - after the initial frustration - quite relaxing.

06-13-2008, 06:41 AM
I actually have tried learning to juggle on my own, but I didn't get very far. The cats didn't appreciate having flying objects landing on them. ;)

Thanks, everyone, this gives me enough to play with my scene. I've got an idea for one of the SF/F Challenge prompts which will involve juggling.

Round John Virgin
06-13-2008, 07:38 AM
The standup comic and sitcom actor Harry Anderson (Night Court) used to juggle a large knife, a meat cleaver, and something else--a hatchet maybe? That was quite an attention getter! Also I saw a guy juggling three running chainsaws. Once.

06-16-2008, 06:13 PM
I juggle some, you know, anti-socially lol, and used to belong to a jugglers group in Akron Ohio, The Rubber City Jugglers. Honest, that was the name. There were a couple pretty big names that came when they were in the area; one was the opening act for David Copperfield when he did Cleveland.

Anyhow, the greatest juggling I ever saw was passing clubs, balls, rings and things via the - now I'm gonna butcher this - Flying Karamotsovs. Incredible.

Juggling more than 4 things is quite a feat but some go up to 7, 8 perhaps 9. I think some kid used to do 11 rings. He was phenomenol.

I also knew someone or of someone who juggled 3 bowling balls. Not many at all can do this. Is your character muscular?

Good luck,

I just thought of this - wonder if there is any video on U-Tube.

06-16-2008, 06:18 PM
To wow the crowd, she ought to use Penn Jillette's broken bottles. That's always impressed me, and I don't know how many times I've seen it. Here's a video.


You might find some of this info helpful for pickpocketing scenes as well:


Love P&T. They're my favorite performers.