The Bridge Generation: From Vaudeville to the Internet Age: Peter Davison

We continue with our second feature on “the Bridge Generation.” This time, Peter Davison answers our questions.  Peter is a past IJA Individuals (1982) and Team Champion (Magnificent Material Movers, 1980; Airjazz, 1982). Airjazz was recognized with the IJA Historical Achievement Award in 2014.

1. Hometown/Where based out of now?
Grew up in Santa Monica, CA. Current home since 1980 is Boulder, CO.

2. When did you learn to juggle? How? (Klutz, friends, etc,)
In 1972 when I was 12. Learned 3 balls from book “Juggling Made Easy” by Rudolf Dittrich, that I found in the library while browsing the magic section. I was previously interested in magic and circus.

3. Favorite juggling prop?
Balls.

4. First convention?
Eugene, 1978.

5. Favorite juggler?
Bobby May.

6. Who do you consider your mentors?
Boy Foy who taught juggling class in Santa Monica. Then Edward Jackman who helped me in many ways through my teenage years.

7. What’s the “Big” piece of advice they imparted to you?
No single sound bite. Boy Foy inspired me to pursue juggling seriously at a young age. Edward showed me that performing was about communicating with audiences beyond just doing tricks.

8. Do you have any jugglers you consider your proteges? How have you “brought them up” in the business? (Or, if not “in the business,” how have you mentored them in life?)
No jugglers per se, but I have taught a boys movement class for many years, with a number of students taking the weekly class for five to ten years. Many of them learned to juggle, unicycle, etc. in the class and became good club jugglers, passers, etc. as well as dancers. I know of several who have gone on to careers in dance and theater who have used their juggling professionally in those fields.

9. 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?
That depends on whether advice is for amateur or professional juggler. For amateurs, or anyone just interested in tricks and learning what others are doing, the internet is a great source. I think it has also helped push the technical level higher with the sharing of possibilities. For professionals, beware of too much internet viewing since that will be a force against creativity. Again, it’s a good way to get general ideas, technique, and possibilities, but then the major creative process has to occur outside of copying. Ideas from others should only be seeds.

10. If you could “pull” a vaudeville juggler forward to today, who would it be?
Bobby May. His well-rounded abilities as a performer and his movement style are actually relevant to today’s aesthetics, I’d say.

Peter’s current activities can be found at poetofmotion.com

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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