The Bridge Generation: Between Vaudeville and the Internet Age: Jack Kalvan

The latest entry into the Bridge Generation series features Jack Kalvan. I’ve actually “known” Jack for nearly 30 years. Okay, not really. But he was at Carnegie Mellon University when I went and I remember him juggling there at “Gray Matter” in the Student Union. I’ve always joked that when I left after that one (not very memorable) year, I missed out on becoming the third member of Clockwork. Well, not being able to juggle at the time was probably the real issue. I got to see Jack at the IJA Convention in Springfield, where he and Arthur Lewbel had copies of their book, When Balls Collide: Understanding the Skill of Juggling and he was gracious enough to contribute to this series. So, take it away, Jack!

1. Name? Jack Kalvan

2. Hometown? until 17 years old in Miami Florida, but since 1994 in Los Angeles.

3. When did you learn to juggle? How?

I taught myself to juggle in 1980 with three tennis balls. It was possibly after seeing Anthony Gatto on television. After I learned, I got Some nice beanbags from Tricia Allen at the Miami Renaissance fair. And I got the Klutz book. Around 1983, I got some Todd Smith clubs from a magic store in Miami and found a local juggling club, the Coconut Grove Jugglers Exchange.

4. Favorite props? Generally clubs.

5. First convention? The 1985 IJA convention in Atlanta.

6. Favorite Juggler? There are many great jugglers, but if I had to pick one, Wes Peden.

7. Who do you consider your mentors? I didn’t really have any mentors. Early jugglers I saw who influenced to me were Airjazz and the Raspyni Brothers.

8. What’s the “Big” piece of advice they imparted to you? Dan Holzman later helped me with my show a bit. The main advice he gave me was to never be satisfied with my show. The routines can always be better.

9. Do you have any jugglers you consider your proteges? How have you brought them up in the business/artform?

I’ve given advice to many jugglers, but the only ones I would consider my protégés are my kids, Max and Oz, who now perform with me. I’m just trying to make juggling and performing interesting and fun for them.

10. Jugglers in our age demographic sort of bridge the gap between vaudeville and the internet explosion. What advice would you give to the jugglers today who can find nearly any technical trick from the internet?

It’s great how easy it is to find jugglers doing crazy tricks on the YouTube and Instagram. If you are just juggling for fun, there is an endless source of inspiration there. Finding how to entertain non-juggling audiences has always been difficult, but is especially challenging now, when what people find entertaining constantly changes.

11. If you could bring a vaudeville juggler into today, who would it be?

I guess I’d pick Cinquevalli. It would be interesting to see how he performed, and if today’s audiences would find him entertaining.


Jack, Jeri and the kids perform together, check here for that info.

Eric "Propfessor" Shibuya works as Professor of Strategic Studies, Marine Corps University and has been juggling for over 35 years. He was one of the guest editors for the 50th anniversary edition of Jugglers World and currently serves on the IJA Board of Directors. He's a frequent attendee of regional juggling and flow festivals. He lives in Virginia.

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