Young Juggling Stars of The Lone Star State

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Historically speaking, the state of Texas (United States of America) hasn’t really had a huge impact on the world of juggling, at least not for an area of its size. However, that may be changing. There’s no doubt that there are some very good jugglers there now (though many are not native Texans), or that Texas has produced some good jugglers who no longer live there. Included in these categories are the likes of numbers and balance-while juggling guru Scott Sorensen, versatile performer Bruce Manners, juggler clown Derek McAlister, comic juggler Arsene, circus juggler Alex Chimal, sports-centric juggler and social media sensation Josh Horton, and wonderful clown Kirk Marsh. Joining their ranks are two jugglers still in their teens – Zak McAllister and Spencer Androli.

As I prepared to come to El Paso for the IJA Festival this summer (my first juggling festival in the Lone Star State), I was especially looking forward to seeing what these two young men would be doing on the gym floor and beyond at the festival. I had seen videos of them throughout the year that made me take notice, and I figured they would attend the festival held in their home state. They didn’t disappoint, making big impacts in a variety of spots, including the Numbers Championships (Spencer placed fourth in two events – including a qualifying run of 7 clubs), Welcome Show (Zak), X-Juggling (Zak won two events), Games (Spencer was a Combat finalist), and more.

So, I wanted to learn a bit more about these two, and posed some questions to them. Here are their responses.

eJuggle: Share with us some general information about yourself.

Zak: My name is Zak McAllister, I am 18 years old, and from Temple, TX. I just graduated from a small high school in my area this year, and a few months ago, I moved to St Louis to begin working with Circus Harmony and Richard Kennison in preparation for Circus School Auditions.

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Spencer: I’m Spencer Androli. I’m 15 years old and my hometown is Tyler, TX.

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eJuggle: How long have you been juggling?

Zak: I have been juggling since I was 10, so roughly about 8 years.

Spencer: I have been juggling for 7 years.

eJuggle: What is your favorite type of juggling and what are your best accomplishments to date juggling?

Zak: My favorite type of juggling is conceptual – AKA taking an idea or theme and making multiple different tricks based off of it. I would have to say my best accomplishments in juggling is 7 ring pancakes for 9 catches and 7 ball bbb for a qualify. Other than my actual juggling skill, I would have to say performing at the IJA was a huge accomplishment and dream for me.

Spencer: I like creative, but technical juggling. I think it looks really cool. Last year, in November of 2015, I won 3rd place in the WJF Advanced Overall Championship. In 2014, I won 1st in the WJF Junior Overall Championship.

eJuggle: Who are the jugglers that have influenced and/or inspired you the most?

Zak: The juggler who has inspired me the most would have to be Drew Brown. The reason I say this is because at my second juggling festival, he saw me trying 5 ball 5 ups into siteswaps and asked me why I didn’t attend his workshop on how to be creative, and I replied by saying that I had no idea that was going on. I followed that up by saying the workshop was unnecessary since I was going to be a technical juggler. His response to this changed my life. He told me, “Let me fill you in on a little secret: you will never be better than Anthony Gatto or Vova. I’m just being realistic. Sure technicality is important for a foundation, but you want to find something that YOU can be the best in the world at.” At first, I was a bit reluctant to listen to him on this, but the more he said it, the more it made sense. I asked him where I should start, and he proceeded to recreate the ENTIRE workshop just for me. It was at this moment, I had a total transformation of mindsets toward juggling. Another juggler who has played a huge part in my juggling would have to be Michael Karas. I met Michael at the IJA in Indiana 2 years ago, and since then he has always been supportive towards my work, which means a lot since he was my favorite juggler at the time. Another great thing about Karas is he one of the most creative and inventive guys out there, which mixes very well with juggling. My final and most recent inspiration is Richard Kennison. I’ve actually only known Richard for roughly 3 months, but he truly changed my life. He did this by convincing my parents to let me move to St Louis and work with him. He has given me the chance of being able to do this for a living, which was never really even an option. Even more so, Richard is currently teaching me the art of act creation, which is something I have never been very good at. Now, as a result, I am making new acts left and right that I am actually proud to say that I made.

Spencer: Wes Peden, Tony Pezzo, Emil Dahl, and Haavard Hvidsten (and others like them) are truly some of my favorite technical / creative jugglers. On the technical side, Jonah Botvinich-Greenhouse, Doug Sayers, Vova Galcheko, and Delaney Bayles inspire me.

eJuggle: What do you hope to accomplish in the next year with your juggling?

Zak: I hope to accomplish many things through my next year of juggling, such as being accepted into the circus school Circadium in Philadelphia, traveling to various juggling festivals to share my new juggling acts, and continuing to push my technical skill to help improve my abilities.

Spencer: I hope to improve my juggling and keep learning and create a successful routine. I would also like to have great dropless routines in the WJF.

eJuggle: What else would you like the juggling community to know about you and your juggling?

Zak: Some things you may want to know about me is that I honestly have no preference in props. I find all three of the primary props to be equal and unique in their own way. Also, I love to discuss juggling and try and help others kick start their newfound passion for the amazing world of creative juggling, so if anyone ever wants help or advice on how to get started, I’d love to chat about that type of thing through Facebook!

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Spencer: When I was 8 years old, my cousin Lucas taught me how to juggle while he was creating a routine with one of his friends. I wanted to learn because I wanted to hang out with him. Soon that day, I learned to juggle 3 balls, and I kept going with help of YouTube and my cousin and his friends. Juggling is one of the things I have a lot of dedication to and patience in. I have wanted learn other stuff like to play the piano, but I never really had the patience for it for some reason. I play guitar and play sports, but I think juggling is more fun than any of them. Juggling is certainly my God given talent.

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Scott Cain is an IJA Life Member, IJA Numbers Championships Co-Director, a former Numbers gold-medalist, Teams medalist as a member of Raising Cain, Musical Theater Critic for Talkin’ Broadway (Cincinnati/Dayton), and assistant curator/researcher for the Historical Juggling Props Museum (www.historicaljugglingprops.com). He and his family live in Cincinnati, Ohio (USA).

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