Ball Spinning: History, Performers, and Tips – Part 2

As I stated in part one of this series, I get asked a wide variety of juggling related questions on a daily basis. One of the areas I get asked the most about is the topic of ball spinning. I’ve had to type the same basic information about ball spinning over and over again, so I thought I could help myself out and help the juggling community out by writing an article about this area of juggling. In Part 1, we took a look at the history of ball spinning and some of the greatest ball spinning jugglers of the past. In this second article, we’ll start by looking at some of the top modern ball spinning jugglers. Then I’ll provide some tips for those wishing to learn some of the basics of ball spinning. Finally we’ll look at some of the variations that can be done within this form of juggling. Before we do all of that, I want to point out that many of the best ball spinners in the world don’t think of themselves as jugglers. I’m referring to basketball freestyle experts. They typically use different spinning techniques than jugglers. Because of this, I will just be discussing typical technique used in the juggling community and will hopefully write a future article showing some of the best of the basketball freestyle ball spinners.

Some of the Best Modern Ball Spinning Jugglers

Sorin Munteanu

Sorin Munteanu was an amazing juggler from Romania who passed away in 2012. In addition to being one of the first jugglers to perform 7 clubs, he was also a fantastic ball spinner. Check out some of the great ball spinning that is shown throughout the video below.

You can see more of Sorin’s act, including ball spinning, by clicking here.

Michael Chirrick

In part 1 of this series, I discussed the famous Brunn family, sharing videos of Francis Brunn, Lottie Brunn, and Ernest Montego doing amazing ball spinning. Lottie’s son Michael Chirrick continues to perform today and is an amazing ball spinner, as you can see in the following videos.

Sean Blue

Sean Blue is a current juggler well-known for his ball spinning with stage balls and other small balls. Unfortunately, not much of Sean’s ball spinning is online, but you can see one video and three photos below. One of his most amazing tricks is to spin three stage balls on the fingers of one hand and do a curl. You can also see some of his wonderful small ball spinning by clicking here.

Angel Egea

Angel Egea is certainly one of the greatest ball spinning jugglers currently performing, if not of all time. Check out his incredible control with a triple ball spin stack and other great ball spinning tricks below.

 

Denis Klopov

Denis Klopov is a Russian ball spinner and clown. He is best known for his incredible control spinning four balls on one finger. Check out his video below.

There are many other jugglers that I could include here, but these five modern era jugglers stand out to me for taking ball spinning to another level.

Tips, Instruction, and Variations

Below are the tips that I often give to those who contact me for help. I hope they prove useful to you as well.

Finding A Ball

The first challenge can be to find a good ball. Here are several recommendations. First, you can try to find a rubber soccer / football.  Rubber balls are very hard to find, but you can find them online by doing an internet search.  Another idea is to make a triple-walled beach ball. Buy three large beach balls for about a dollar a piece. Cut out the circle around the inflation nozzle of two of them. Take the intact one, roll it up, and insert it into the hole of one of the others. Make sure the nozzle sticks out the hole of the outside one. Inflate this and make sure things are lined up okay. Then deflate, roll that double walled ball up and stick it in the third ball the same way. Then you have a heavy, visual, and cheap spinning ball. It can be a bit slick, but you can learn to deal with it fairly easily. A third option is to the buy a slo-mo / cando ball. You can find them on amazon, although I do have to say that the ones they sell now are much heavier and not as nice as the ones that used to be available. If you’re willing to put a little work into it, you can find a rubber basketball and sand it smooth. This makes a great spinning ball. Finally, there are currently at least three spinning balls being manufactured for the juggling community. Play, Mister Babache, and Radfactor spinning balls are all available online. Of these three, I’ve only tried the Radfactor ball. While it’s smaller than I typically prefer, it did have a nice balance and feel and worked well.

Learning The Basic Spin

Here’s a great tutorial by Bri Crabtree on learning the basic spin.

Most of the tips I’d tell you are in the above video, but I do one thing differently. I don’t raise my arm like Bri does. My arm position is closer to this tutorial video by Niels Duinker.

Keep your elbow close to your body in order to keep your arm vertical. Watch my form in the following video.

Spin the ball in the “juggler’s direction” instead of the basketball player’s direction. This means hold the ball with your thumb pointing to the left (if you’re using your right hand) and turn your hand to spin it so that the thumb swings toward you and ends up pointing to the right. Toss the ball up just a few inches. Bring your hand down as you catch the ball on the fleshy part of the fingertip so that you grip it, but also absorb the impact so it doesn’t bounce off. Immediately transfer the ball to your fingernail so the ball will spin longer. Use your pointer finger. Most people learn with a slightly under inflated ball. Make sure the axis of the ball is perfectly vertical and lands with your fingertip on that axis point. Keep your elbow next to your body.

Variations

If you’ve watched all of the videos in both articles, you’ll see that there are many, many tricks that can be done with a spinning ball. My video above shows many tricks that are possible as well, just in case you skipped it. Two of the most common tricks that jugglers want to learn are arm curls, where the ball is taken under the arm, and a two ball stack. Below is a video showing Sean Blue doing continuous arm curls with both hands. Note that the proper form includes the ball going up and down and the arm going around the ball. There should be very little lateral movement of the ball. As I said, the ball should just be going up and down as much as possible.

Here’s a tutorial by Ben Cornish that gives some helpful tips on the curl.

The other trick that everyone wants to learn is a two ball spin stack.  The first thing you need to do is to find the right combination of balls that will work together. You typically use a larger and heavier ball for the bottom ball and something at least slightly smaller and lighter for the top ball. The two balls should have a decent amount of grip between them. If you’re using the double or triple walled beach ball or a slo-mo ball, a gertie ball, which can be ordered online, works well as a top ball. Generally speaking, it’s going to take some experimenting to find the right combination of balls that works. You want to spin the bottom ball very fast and stable and then with the other hand, quickly bring the top ball directly above the bottom ball, about an inch above it. You then want to carefully drop the top ball onto the bottom ball, imparting a tiny amount of spin to the top ball in the same direction as the bottom ball spin. You now want to look where the two balls meet and start balancing!

A more advanced way of doing a two ball stack is spin them both and then stack them. Angel Egea and Denis Klopov used this method and you can see me demonstrate it at the beginning of the following video. It’s important that the two balls be spinning in the same direction and at the same speed and that the two axes (plural of axis) are lined up perfectly.

I hope the performer videos have been inspirational to you and I hope that the instruction has proved useful and educational. Ball spinning is a great juggling skill and is not hard to learn with the proper balls and proper instruction. I’ll leave you with two last videos. One is my favorite ball spinning trick, the kick up to the triple ball spin stack. The second is a very unique ball spinning act by Karina Yusupova.

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

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