Congress of Jugglers 2012, an apolitical feast for the eyes

Over one hundred people come together for the Congress of Jugglers 2012 event.

Congress of Jugglers 2012, an apolitical feast for the eyes
Annual festival placates the juggling majority

By Christian Kloc

The Congress of Jugglers convened once again March 9-11, bringing jugglers to University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum for some delightfully apolitical exploits. Most of the action took place Saturday, with open juggling, games and an evening show.

Unicyclists Joey Neigh, Daniel Riker, Joe Levesque, Max McWhirter, and Matthew Bishop illustrate the "evolution of man."

More than 100 jugglers took to the gym to catch up and toss around their ideas. Virginia resident Ben Fry practiced some flowing three-ball moves while Mark Nizer put one ring between his teeth and another on top of it in a five-ring breakdown.

Unicyclists relished having a sizable gathering of one-wheeled counterparts and played unicycle hockey outside the gym. Festival-goers also got the chance to wheel their way around on Bob Swaim’s inventive cycles. Several attendees took great joy spinning around in an office chair using the gyroscopic force of a wheel with handles. Another spontaneous game involved trying to bounce a ball into a narrow, freestanding vertical tube.

Colleen Roscher juggles her fire hula hoop for a crowd of spectators.

The “official” games kicked off with club gathering. John Chase, whose newborn “juggling chick” was the festival’s youngest attendee, hauled in 57 clubs for the win. Amongst a lineup of at least 20 diaboloists, Kelly Heck landed her spindle in a box bravely held by Matt Wise to win the “diabolo in a box” challenge. Jordan Harper kept three quarters aloft for five minutes to take home $22.00 and two Brazilian coins (no, not Bazillion) in quarter juggling. Jimmy Roberts, despite some criticism of the host, proved the best listener in three-ball Simon Says. In the six-club passing race, John Chase and Brian Knobbs passed around Jesse Joyner halfway across the gym and back in 21 seconds to edge out the competition. Matthew Weaver cascaded five balls for 4 minutes and 15 seconds to win the games’ final contest.

Later, emcee Wil Allyn took his usual place on a couch to introduce each act of the Saturday night show with a healthy dose of humor and sarcasm. Bob Nickerson got everyone’s blood circulating with some athletic juggling whilst hula hooping to open the show. Jenny Thalman and Serena McKinley also explored their circular existences with a colorful hoop act.

Jumping rope with fire on a walking globe.

Daniel Riker performed some five-ball moves, ate an apple while juggling, then continued chewing the apple throughout his four-club and poi routines. Diaboloist Robin Hu did stick releases, a fast umbrella move, and a two-diabolo sprinkler to a soothing techno beat. Eric Alexander exhibited flower sticks with complex arm wraps and shoulder rolls.

Dustin Foley, a stand-up comedian who had never been more nervous about dropping the microphone, imagined a world where Encyclopedia Brown’s Wikipedia equivalent solved crimes with open-source ineptitude. Colleen Roscher gleefully rolled a hula hoop across her outstretched arms, among other hooping feats, to The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” Alex Han and Kevin Chung expertly spun diabolos with numerous partner tricks, including neck-wrap passes, excalibur exchanges and a spectacular side-by-side, rotating leg orbit.

Max McWhirter does an insane jump over a set of stairs in front of Ritchie Coliseum.

Matthew Weaver, who has been juggling for four years, showed amazing control with a nice club-swing juggle and five-club run. “That’s more than one club a year,” the emcee commented. École de Cirque de Québec graduate and IJA Busking Champion Cate Flaherty explained, “Instead of bringing my street show, I brought three French Canadians.” She then climbed atop the shoulders of Dmitiri, one of said French Canadians, for a clean run of five balls. Brian Knobbs and Christian Kloc followed with some energetic club passing and dancing (to mask the drops) to Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat,” successfully trading nine clubs and not-so-successfully attempting ten. Harrison Price found a dark spot in the gym to spin some glow poi in enviable isolations and releases.

Bob Nickerson closed the show with his incredibly fowl and nef-aerie-ous mallard routine. “I feel no bitterness, I have no egrets, but you gotta admit, I do have a way with birds,” he concluded.

Huge thanks go out to Sophie Jablansky and all the other members of the University of Maryland Juggling Club for once again successfully organizing the juggling festival closest to the president’s crib – how’s that for a feat?

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