Before I get into the review, I want to give a big shout out to the wonderful photographers who let me reproduce their work (over 150 photos) in this article. Thanks to Luke Burrage, Joke Schot, Vincent Groenhuis, Stephen McGinley, and Florian Letsch! See links to their full EJC albums at the end of this article.
Legends of the Stage
Friday night was the Legends of the Stage show. What an amazing line-up! I had seen videos of all of the acts before, but had never seen any of the acts live. What a treat!
The emcee for the evening was Oliver Palmer from Wednesday’s Open Stage.
The first act of the evening was by UK passing duo, Haggis and Charlie. These 30-year veteran performers started with a series of 3 club takeouts with lots of comedy patter. Technical highlights included a 3 club multiplex pass directly into 3 club solo, and passing 5 clubs directly into Haggis doing 5 solo. They kept the pacing going as their passing moved up from 3 to 7 clubs with a constant stream of funny lines and lots of style.
Photos Courtesy of Vincent Groenhuis, Florian Letsch, and Luke Burrage
Jochen Schell’s act was titled, “Am I playing the rings, or are the rings playing me?” With 1 ring, he did a great full body roll across his body that ended with a twirly foot catch. He did a lot of spinning and manipulations with 2 and 4 rings, including some interesting club-swing type moves. His 3 UFO cascade was beautiful. Jochen had a great trick where he spun rings on his hands and foot and suddenly switched them to different positions (foot to hand, hand to other hand, hand to foot). His act ended with an unusual but very aesthetic ring folding technique. Jochen performs with a rare intensity which also matched his personality off the stage.
Photos Courtesy of Luke Burrage (x2)
The next act was announced that “he was a name in juggling before there were names in juggling.” Of course, that was Steve Mills from the United States. He started with some antics with latex gloves before moving on to his classic 3 ball routine with silicones. He did lots of patterns while making wacky faces. Of course, the audience went wild when he did that arm crossing and uncrossing trick. Steve worked the crowd and threw t-shirts to his fans. This is a man that definitely loves to be in the spotlight. The full act is available for viewing online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ndzq3SNIt0.
Photos Courtesy of Florian Letsch, Vincent Groenhuis, and Florian Letsch
Prior to the show, I worried about how an old-school diabolo act would be appreciated since this prop has developed so much in the past 20+ years. Donald Grant from Scotland first performed at EJC in 1993, but he pulled off his classic tricks with great poses and pizzazz. Donald totally rocked the audiences socks off with great moves and crazy fast moves (all in a kilt) that got a great response. (Sorry for under-estimating you Donald.)
Photos Courtesy of Vincent Groenhuis, Luke Burrage, and Florian Letsch
At 76 years old, Freddy Kenton’s career has spanned 60 years and he obviously still has a lot left in him. His gentleman juggler style consisted only of big tricks, nearly all of which could be a finale in another juggler’s repertoire. He started with a 3 golf club and golf ball balance while playing a mandolin. Second, he balanced a glass of wine on a balloon on a mouthstick, popped the balloon, and caught the bottle cleanly. He did some juggling with billiard balls, catching them in pockets of his belt. Next he balanced 2 pool cues with a billiard ball in between. Probably his most unique trick was using some sort of gun to shoot a billiard ball in the air to be caught in a cup atop a tall (maybe 3 meter high) pole. My favorite trick was his using a violin bow as a mouthstick and balancing on top of it a ball stacked with wine glasses on glass shelves and then raising up and moving around a violin to play against the bow held in his teeth – truly spectacular. For a finale, Freddy balanced a wine glass on a mouthstick and a wine pitcher on his forehead and leaned forward to pour wine into the glass without letting anything slide off. Everything was flawlessly executed and had us in awe the entire time. Truly a classy act, and it deserved the standing ovation it received.
Photos Courtesy of Vincent Groenhuis, Luke Burrage, and Vincent Groenhuis
Michael Moschen from the United States was the next performer. Unfortunately without access to his full triangle, he was only able to perform a short bouncing routine. He did some interesting 1 ball bouncing with his feet while tapping and sliding his feet in rhythms. He did a nice upside-down box bounce and then challenged the audience to draw shapes in the air with our fingers and having each hand doing different shapes simultaneously. On a personal level, it was really nice to talk to Michael during the week. Not only was he very approachable, but it was nice to see him in the gym actively approaching others and giving tips about their juggling or their acts.
Photos Courtesy of Luke Burrage, Florian Letsch, and Luke Burrage
Françoise Rochais from France came on stage dressed as a Southern belle in a long white dress while juggling 3 lace parasols. She moved on to juggle 4 and 5 objects with combinations of different props: balls, rings, parasols, batons, clubs, and a racket. In a sudden burst, she did a quick change into a short black sequined dress and increased the pace of the show. She worked with 3 and 4 batons very fast while rock dancing and pirouetting (all in high heels) around the stage. Françoise ended with a bit more than a flash of 7 batons and earned a standing ovation for her performance.
Photos Courtesy of Luke Burrage, Florian Letsch, and Vincent Groenhuis
The finale was Viktor Kee from the Ukraine. Known for his Cirque du Soleil performances, Viktor juggles balls ultra fast with highly choreographed full body movements and sharp poses. Every once in a while, he would throw away his balls and new ones would drop from the ceiling on demand. Throughout, probably 2 dozen balls fell perfectly-timed into his hands. For the finale, he did a nice run of 7 balls, including one flaming ball. Of course, he got a standing ovation.
Photos Courtesy of Joke Schot, Vincent Groenhuis, and Luke Burrage
And here’s the final curtain call:
The host for the Gala Show was Matthias Romir from Germany. Now, Matthias is not your typical emcee, with the usual hype and enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, he’s more of a droll clown (he defined his M.C. as “Miserable Clown”), dressed in Victorian garb and roller skates. Some people complained about his style, but I liked it a lot. Perhaps the juxtaposition with the other artists gave a sort of contrast that made the others’ energy more apparent?
Photo Courtesy of Luke Burrage
First up was Roxana from Germany/Iran with a static trapeze act with a mystical style. She did all sorts of poses while trapping a stage ball on different parts of her body: the back of her knees, between her ankles, in the crook of her neck, on her toes, on the sole of her foot, etc.
Photos Courtesy of Vincent Groenhuis, Stephen McGinley, and Luke Burrage
Kyle Johnson from the United States did a ball act in his inimitable style. He rolled one ball around his body including the Francis Brunn foot to hand roll. With three balls, he did combinations of tossing and body rolling. My favorite was his rolling of all 3 balls up his back. He ended with what I think was 6 ball 567.
Photo Courtesy of Luke Burrage and Vincent Groenhuis
Matthias came on and did a clever balloon number. He would release a lightly weighted helium balloon on a string, execute a super quick sequence, and then rescue the balloon before it floated off. He pulled off about 10 tricks that way with last-second saves between each trick. He did some other amusements with the balloon and some sweet club manipulations.
Photos Courtesy of Stephen McGinley, Luke Burrage, and Stephen McGinley
Gail O’Brien, who we saw in the Irish show the other night, came out and did another hooping routine. Whereas the other one was gimmicky with glo-props, this time was more technical. She started with lots of balances, poses, and rolls, and then moved on to a super-fast swinging section. My favorite trick was where she flipped a hoop back to a surprise blind catch. She did more moves flipping the hoop around her body from legs to shoulders. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a second hoop appeared and she combined isolations and twirling moves. She ended with 4 hoops spinning on her arms in different directions.
Photos Courtesy of Luke Burrage, Stephen McGinley, and Luke Burrage
I was at the second show which didn’t include Samuel Youde. But I saw his act earlier this year at the Israeli convention and I can understand why it was so controversial. He did a stream of consciousness monologue that was depressing and offensive to many. His club manipulations were awesome but juggling only entailed a very tiny percentage of his stage time. This act was cut from the second seating.
After a brief intermissions, rings and clubs were set up throughout the stage. Patrik Elmnert from Sweden came on to astound us. He casually roamed the stage collecting props and tapping his little structures which set things in motion to eventually get the props into his hands. He did some surprising balances on his head and hands and combined them with clever bounce moves. He started 4 rings while balancing one on his face and then transitioned into having 3 balanced, and then dropped from that into a 5 ring cascade. His 3 club sequence included spinning catches between the legs behind his back. Patrick ended with an 8 ring flash that earned him a mini standing ovation and a quip from the emcee: “I wouldn’t like to be the next artist [to follow that routine].”
Photos Courtesy of Stephen McGinley, Luke Burrage, and Florian Letsch
Roxana returned for a second routine. She started crouched down in a spider-like position and did some cute movements rolling a ball around with her fingers and toes. She then rolled onto her back for some 4 and 5 ball juggling while twisting her arms around her legs and also incorporating foot catches. She also got a mini standing ovation for her supine skills.
Photos Courtesy of Stephen McGinley, Luke Burrage, and Vincent Groenhuis
Cyrille Humen from France did an extract from his show, “Dive.” He started with a kickup of a ball to his ear and did lots of creative contact moves. The trick I enjoyed the most was when he lay down with the ball on his belly and rolled it up to his ear.
Photos Courtesy of Stephen McGinley (x2)
Matthias came out again and did a short diabolo routine with a helium balloon attached to the end of the string coming out of the end of his handsticks. He lip-synced to “Perfect Day” and did some cool slow-motion suicides (caused by the drag of the balloon).
Photos Courtesy of Stephen McGinley (x3)
And finally, the finale. Canes and clubs covered the stage for Florent Lestage from France. He had a unique style of holding the bottom ends of the canes and catching the bulbs of clubs in the curved hooks. Sometimes he would connect two canes from their hooks and manipulate them. He juggled 3 clubs using only the cane hooks as hands and then finished by holding a club in the hook of each cane and going into a juggle of all 4 objects (2 club and 2 canes). It was all presented in a quirky style punctuated with squeals of delight.
Photos Courtesy of Vincent Groenhuis, and Stephen McGinley (x2)
The final curtain call of EJC:
I’m grateful to the photographers who allowed me to use their photos for this article (links are to their full EJC albums):
Luke Burrage – https://www.lukeburrage.com/blog/archives/2105
Vincent Groenhuis – https://www.facebook.com/groenhuis/media_set?set=a.671427202948930.1073741850.100002449707647&type=1 and also tons more here and here and here and here and here. Main article featured image was from Vincent.