Ask David – February 2021

Welcome to my column for eJuggle, Ask David. In this column, you can ask me for my opinion, advice, or knowledge about anything juggling-related.

In case you don’t know me and you’re wondering why you might want to know my thoughts, here’s a bit about me. I’ve been a professional juggler for 37 years and have performed over 15,000 professional shows. I’ve also set over 20 world records and won 15 IJA gold medals. I’ve won two of the IJA’s honorary awards: the Bobby May Award, given to the top juggling mentor / coach, and the Excellence in Education Award. I’m also one of the world’s leading juggling historians. I’ve written 13 books about juggling history and almost 400 articles about juggling and juggling history. I also own the world’s only juggling museum, The Museum of Juggling History.

So, now that you know a bit about me, let’s get to our questions for today’s column.

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Peter Panic (Peter McLaughlin) writes, “I keep seeing videos of performers doing great combination tricks involving ball spinning with medium size balls. What kind of balls are they using and where do you get them?”

My response: Well, I’ll start by saying that spinning balls are a very personal prop. What works great for one juggler might not work at all for another. Everyone seems to like a different size, weight, texture, and firmness. Nevertheless, there are two balls I can fairly confidently say are good balls. First is a rubber soccer ball. The vast majority of soccer balls you’ll find in stores are vinyl / plastic. But if you go on amazon, you’ll find a variety of rubber soccer balls. I would try to find one without deep seams. Many of these balls have a waterproof coating, which may be problematic if you sweat a lot. This coating can be removed with acetone.

The other ball I recommend is the Radfactor 9 inch spinning ball that is available from Renegade and some other juggling prop dealers. Not every example is perfectly balanced, so it’s ideal to try them in person and find one you like, but a good one works very well. Here’s a video of my daughter spinning one and then placing a gertie ball on top to do a double stack spin.

Jay Gilligan writes, “With the new 14 club passing world record lately, I’m wondering if we have confirmed information about who was the first (and when) to pass 9 and 10 clubs? Many have claimed it, most notably Penn Jillette says he did 9 with Michael Moschen. though I believe Hovey Burgess maybe also have a valid consideration somehow.”

My response: Well, let’s start with 6 clubs. The first duo to pass 6 clubs was either the Devine Brothers or Rogers and Rourke, who lived only ten miles apart in Massachusetts and both started passing clubs around 1886. The first duo to pass 7 clubs was Cal Kenyon and George Kenyon, who did so around 1907. The first jugglers to pass 8 clubs were Ben Mowatt and Ben Mowatt Jr., who did so at least as early as 1903.

Ben Mowatt and Ben Mowatt Jr.

I do realize that this is counter intuitive considering the date for the first duo to pass seven clubs is later than for eight clubs, but perhaps the offset timing nature of 7 clubs delayed the passing of seven? There is even the possibility that the reason for this is that early club passers only knew how to pass every others (4 count) with six and did every others with 8 as well initially. Early juggling historian Tommy Breen reported that the first team to pass 6 clubs using a 2 count was Harry and Joe Barrett.

Now we come to the question posed by Jay. As best as I’ve been able to determine, the first jugglers to pass 9 and 10 clubs were the Russians Ivan Larin and Alexi Kuklenkov. They were students at the Moscow Circus School in the 1930s. The were the first technical club passing act the school produced and they specialized in passing 6, 7, and 8 clubs very long distances. In practice, they were able to successfully pass 9 and 10 clubs and were preparing to put 10 clubs in their act when the Soviet Union entered World War II in 1941.  The first known duo to perform 9 clubs were the Gratschewi Trio in 1951. The trio consisted of Vasily Grachev, Yevgeny Akifiev, and Mikhail Chernov and were coached by Nicolai Bauman. During their act, Grachev and Akifiev passed nine clubs. I have seen some sources that say they performed 10 clubs while others say they only did it in practice. You can see them passing 9 in the following video.


Slow motion club passing act – Gratchewi Trio <– Video page on JTV

If the Gratchewi Trio never performed 10, then the first to do so was Viktor Rakin and Anatoly Zhang during the 1960s.

The first duo to pass 11 clubs were the Passing Zone, Owen Morse and Jon Wee, in 1993. That same year, David Cain and Scott Sorensen were the first to flash 12 clubs.

13 clubs were first flashed in 2004 by Darin Marriott and Peter Kaseman and were first qualified in 2009 by Wes Peden and Patrik Elmnert.

The first duo to flash 14 clubs was Darin Marriott and Peter Kaseman in 2004. And now Manuel Mitasch and Dominik Harant finally qualified 14 clubs at the end of 2020.

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

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