40 Years of Change in the Juggling World – Part 2

The year 2022 marks my 40th year as a juggler. I don’t feel super old most of the time. My kids are still teenagers, at least for a little while longer. At 52, I’m firmly in the “middle aged” category. Yet the juggling world I’ve been a part of for the past four decades has changed so incredibly much that thinking about those changes makes me feel ancient sometimes. In Part 1 of this article, we looked at how access to information, access to videos, the availability of juggling gatherings, and the technical level of juggling have changed in the past four decades. Let’s take a look at five more areas of change.

Geographic Change

When I started in the juggling world, the vast, vast majority of jugglers were from Europe and the United States. I was aware of a few Latin American jugglers, such as Rudy Cardenas, but hearing about others was a rare occurrence. Likewise, other than an infrequent mention of a traditional Edo Daikagura Japanese juggler, news about juggling in Asia was very uncommon. Today, Latin America and Japan are perhaps the two fastest growing regions in the world for juggling, with many incredible performers and hobbyists coming to the forefront each year. In fact, Japanese jugglers have won the IJA Individuals Championships six times in the past decade. Juggling has also spread into Africa and the Middle East as well. Some of this is due to the internet, but the IJA’s IRC work has also been very influential in helping this spread.

Increased Variety In Juggling Paths

Forty years ago, if you were a juggler, you were most likely either a full-time performer or a hobbyist, with not much in between. Today, it could be argued that there are not as many opportunities for live performing as there were then, but there are other venues that weren’t possible then. Some jugglers do all of there performing online or create content for various social media outlets. Others teach or perform at the many juggling and flow festivals that happen around the world (when a pandemic isn’t going on). Many of the most talented and best known jugglers in the world aren’t performers at all. They are hobbyists who simply wish to push themselves and the boundaries of what is possible with juggling. This is quite a change from the past.

More Women In Juggling

In the early 1980s, there were certainly women at juggling gatherings, but their numbers were fairly low and, with few exceptions, their technical ability was not very high. Today, we have a much larger percentage of women involved in juggling and flow arts and we see women with much greater technical abilities. With amazing jugglers such as Delaney Bayles, Cinthia Buitron, Hazel Bock, and Zaila Avante-garde continuing the work that Cindy Marvell and Francoise Rochais started in the 1990s, women account for a much larger percentage of today’s amazing jugglers.

The Integration of Flow Arts with the Juggling Community

The very concept of flow arts wasn’t even a thing in 1982, but today it is probably the fastest growing part of the juggling world. The inclusion of poi, hooping, and other genres of flow arts into the juggling community has been a major change and benefit to the juggling world. It has also helped to bring more women into the community, as I stated earlier.

One indication that flow arts is becoming more integrated into the juggling community is the fact that my article The History of Poi Swinging Within the Juggling Community is my most read eJuggle article just about every month.

The Popularity of Different Forms of Juggling

In the early 1980s, two of the most popular types of juggling were devil stick and cigar boxes. The same can’t be said today. On the other hand, I’m not sure if I saw a single diabolo at the first few IJA Conventions I attended. Poi was unheard of and fiberglass clubs were a popular alternative to plastic versions. Numbers juggling with hats and technical plate spinning wasn’t seen. Glow props were also not available unless you made your own or used Jugglebug’s fluorescent clubs.

Jugglebug Glow in the Dark club

As you can see, the juggling world has changed in many ways. I look forward to seeing how it evolves over the next four decades.

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 16 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-six books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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