3 Ball Gurus: Part 2 – Dan Jahvorsky

Some jugglers are known for being jacks of all trades. They try to learn to be somewhat proficient at a very wide array juggling skills. Others concentrate on one or two props and rarely if ever mess around with anything else. A few make it their goal to concentrate on one very specific type and number of prop and expand what is possible with their area of expertise. After thousands of years of juggling, you might think that everything that could possibly be done with 3 ball juggling would have been discovered, but that is not the case. A number of jugglers, including Andrew Olson and Dan Jahvorsky, are pushing the boundaries of 3 ball creativity and creating an incredible number of new patterns and tricks. Both Dan and Andrew agreed to share a bit about themselves and the work that they’re doing with 3 ball creation. In part two of this series, we get to know Dan Jahvorsky and learn about his journey.

1. Can you please tell our readers a bit about your background?

Dan: I am 32 years ago and grew up in the Pioneer Valley of New England. While living in Massachusetts, I attended the state’s flagship school, located in the historic town of Amherst. Before graduating with a degree in biology, I worked in a molecular entomology lab on campus and toured/recorded with an acapella group. For the past 10 years, I’ve taught a variety of subjects in the domains of mathematics and science; my favorite classes so far have been astronomy, physics, and calculus. I believe that teaching STEM courses helped to potentiate my passion for juggling and encouraged an appreciation for other technical art forms.

2. How and when did you learn to juggle?
Dan: After reading a scientific paper on neuron signaling in high school, I began investigating techniques that would help me improve my hand-eye coordination and speed up my reflexes on the baseball field. Enter: juggling. In my early years, I practiced the fundamentals for hours at a time, until basic patterns slowly (and unexpectedly) began to crystallize in my mind and body. Learning simple variations opened the door to other, more interesting machinations. It could be said that the satisfaction of creating something new inspired me then and still continues to push me toward exciting challenges that manifest in truly unpredictable ways – novelty it seems, has been the cornerstone of my research and the bedrock of my artistic well-being.
3. Besides creative 3 ball juggling, do you enjoy or specialize in any other types of juggling and object manipulation?
Dan: When I first began juggling, I was undoubtedly drawn to other forms of kinetics, including yo-yo, diabolo, and hacky sack. In addition to object manipulation, I fell in love with break-dancing and flatland BMX – while in college, that wider scope narrowed as my focus shifted exclusively toward 3 ball juggling. There, I began to rub elbows with other serious jugglers at my university’s club; this experience broadened my perspective and unveiled aspects of parabolic motion I had never conceived of before, let alone attempted.
4. What drew you to 3 ball juggling?

Dan: For me, juggling has always been about solving dynamical puzzles – ones that can be infinitely re-imagined by morphing or modifying certain parameters in meaningful ways. By bending, breaking, or blending new rhythms/shapes together, I’ve longed to create illusory, geometric structures that have the quality of momentary beauty and whose underlying character highlights symmetry through orthogonality on the flexing stage of space-time. Much like mathematicians have endeavored for centuries to distill complicated numerical tapestries into elegantly robust equations, I believe the discovery process for juggling patterns follows a similar set of axioms that help to guide researchers toward wonderfully complex designs, refracted through the trappings of simplicity and harmony.

5. What is your process for creating new patterns and tricks?

Dan: When crafting an original variation, I usually split up a few well-known patterns into a series of prime components or movements. These elements are then stitched together in a linear, piece-wise fashion – smoothing out the transitions between each part often illuminates nascent structures that can be further mixed together. Indeed, the hybridization of patterns offers the ultimate challenge if one only considers that the total possible combinations is equal to n!/(n-s)! – where n is the number of potential elements and s is the number of those parts used in sequence for a particular variation. For example, if one sources from a total of 10 juggling elements and any 3 are used in a given pattern, for potential combinations, it follows that: 10!/(10-3)! = 720. This, however is not full picture because of redundancies that crop up (e.g. ABC = CAB = BCA, meaning that 720/3 reduces the total to 240 different variations). It is only the tip of the iceberg, as the number of components can be expanded without bound. Most of the elements I’ve used to construct variations have been borrowed from patterns like Romeo’s Revenge, 441, Mills Mess, and Active 2’s (2T for those who are site-swap savvy). Recently, I’ve been working with patterns that incorporate (0,2x) and (4x,0) elements – where each zero represents an empty hand; this approach is similar to developing 4 or 5 ball pattern with holes.

6. Who else besides yourself do you view as the leaders in creative 3 ball juggling today?

Dan: Lou Duncan, Andrew Olson, Quinn Lewis, Masateru Sakabibara, Jake Hart-Predmore, Bridger Williamson, Mike Moore, Josh Mermelstein, Dan Barron, Ryohei Kimura, Michael Karas, Alex Rozanov, Stefan Thaler, and Kotaro Fukuda.

7. Do you have any advice for other jugglers who want to push their creative boundaries technically?

Dan: I would encourage those who have creative wanderlust to try opening up an old book in search for new ideas. By returning to the basics and strengthening the foundation of each discrete, interlocking component, the process of finding new transitions and shapes will become more intuitive. The visual aesthetics of a pattern can often run antithetical to how juggling the particular pattern feels – the twists and turns of momenta that dovetail with the nuances of timing each particular throw are not always obvious and will need to be explored more fully by actively seeing with one’s hands and feeling with one’s eyes. Additionally, it’s valuable to not only record oneself juggling (for the purposes of revisiting patterns and correcting errors more keenly) but to also look around the room and see what other jugglers are conjuring up; this will help to train one’s gaze and facilitate the cross-pollination of ideas in the mind’s eye more naturally. Lastly, learning site-swap and modeling existing patterns in Juggling Lab, though not necessary, will spur eureka moments that may not been realized through exploratory, brute practice alone. It has been said by many before me that the most pivotal moments in any scientist’s career often begins with three simple words, “Wow, that’s strange…”

Let’s take a look at some of Dan’s amazing 3 ball work.

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of twenty three books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

Leave a Reply