Like last year, I will write 3 parts:
1. General Review: Info about EJC, minus the big shows.
2. Open Stages: Sunday – Wednesday
3. Main Shows: Matthias Romir Show, Opening Show, Italian Show, and Gala Show
(here are last year’s: part 1, part 2, part 3.)
The first part, I will write in diary form with lots of name-dropping. My point-of-view here is mostly hanging out with sport jugglers and performers. There are quite a few other communities at EJC that I’m unfortunately not representing. I’ll try in the future to get more input from flow artists, acrobats, hoopers, manipulators, unicyclists, and other talented people. But, as you’ll see below, I did make extra efforts this year to attend some events that I normally try to miss.
Even though there were around 50 Israeli jugglers coming to EJC this year, I didn’t coordinate my travel with anyone. The few people I spoke to weren’t travelling the same route as me, but as I approached Gate B2, I saw Bar Mualem. We hung out at the airport and were able to arrange to sit next to each other on the plane. This is his 10th EJC and my 4th. We spoke about his past year at circus school in Israel, his plans for getting into a European circus school [he did get into Carampa], juggling in Israel, inspirations, performing, and lots of fun juggling talk.
When we got to our layover in Athens, I started looking out for other jugglers but Bar suggested that Athens isn’t really on route from most European cities, towards Italy, but when we got to our gate, I immediately recognized Deena Frooman and her boyfriend, Max. This will be her 14th EJC and his 2nd. We shmoozed a bit there and also travelled a bit together once we got to Venice, to go from the airport to the city center.
Thursday night and Friday morning I toured solo around beautiful Venice. Friday midday, I had arrange to meet up with Lucia, whom I met on the EJC forum. We took a walking tour, visited a museum and churches, enjoyed the amazing views, tasted Italian cuisine, bought some gifts, and kept walking until my feet hurt (and beyond, but it was worth it).
Saturday morning I was up at 5:30 to get an early start to the EJC site. When I got off the vaporetto (boat-bus) in front of the train station, I saw a guy by the steps juggling. “Hello, juggler” I greeted, and then I got a shock when he answered me in Hebrew! Oops, I didn’t recognize him, but he knew me from the Israeli Convention. This is Dida’s first EJC, but he’s a decent juggler and just finished his first year at circus school with Bar Mualem. We met up with some other Israelis on route, and saw many other jugglers as well. As the train climbed into the mountains, the excitement grew – and not just for us circus folk, but based on the paraphanelia, most of the other travellers to the area were mountain climbers and cyclists on their ways to their own adventures.
As we approached Bruneck, we could see big tops in the fields. The train station was an easy few minutes walk to the EJC site, a big relief for me since I’m a chronic over-packer, and I suffered immensely on the arrival trek at previous EJCs.
They had announced a 1pm opening time, but when we arrived at 12:30, registration lines were already flowing. A good sign of a well-organized event!
I set up my tent quickly and went to check out the site. There were three main juggling gyms, another for acro, and a nice soccer field with artificial turf that turned out to be popular, too. Other facilities included a several big tops for shows, a fire space, a large vendors area (including a huge assortment of high quality EJC embroidered goods), and a nice selection of food choices on site. Showers and bathrooms were clean and plentiful (and thankfully not portable), which made everything comfortable for a week of camping. There were also supermarkets, restaurants, pubs, and shops very nearby. And all of it was in a valley surrounded by majestic mountains.
Many of us spent the first afternoon trying out the various gyms to determine which was the best (factors include: lighting, busy ceiling structures, ceiling heights, space, flooring, etc.). I remember watching Ofek Snir walk in the gym on the first day and just stare disappointedly at the floors. As a master pirouetter, he’s used to smooth floors and didn’t seem happy with the full carpetting put down to protect the gym floors (he quickly got used to it, BTW). One of the first jugglers I gawked at was little Adam Aluma, a 13 year old I know from Israel. He’s short for his age, but his 5 ball siteswaps, 2-stage pirouettes, and 7 ball juggling were outstanding.
One disadvantage of 3 halls (plus the field) was that I always worried that I was missing something. My previous EJCs had one main hall so it was always easy to look around and see much of the action (I’ve heard that it’s not uncommon for EJCs to have multiple halls, though). I chose a good hall the first day, and saw some great juggling. The highlight for many of us was watching Ofek Snir of Israel. His amazing practice session ended with over an hour of attempts at 7 ball 7-up triple pirouette (that’s 1080). Even though he got it a few times, he was usually disappointed to not get a perfect solid pattern after. But here’s a nice successful one (by Kristian Wanvik): https://www.facebook.com/norwikjuggling/videos/404933589691859/
Also in slow motion: https://www.facebook.com/norwikjuggling/videos/404933589691859/
Sunday morning I volunteered for badge control by the registration desk. It was a slow period so the people I relieved from duty came up with drawing control. Aside from checking for badges, everyone going past had to contribute to a page of doodle drawings. People seemed a bit surprised by the request, but they enjoyed it. Later in the week I also volunteered as usher for a show and in the catering tent (food for performers and staff volunteers). I was also the ejc2015.org volunteer webmaster for the past 8 months.
Next I went to the large vendors area. I set up a booth of information about the IJA and eJuggle. Then I bought some toys for myself and others.
Overall, there were a few rainy days, but my new tent held up much better than previous years. The mud sometimes got tedious, but there was mostly good weather, and it dried up quickly each time.
One of the jugglers I got to know on Sunday was Sebastian Landauer from Germany. Aside from the usual soccer ball juggling (which is a particular favorite style of mine), one awesome trick which really caught my eye was his ability to kick up 2 soccer balls for long runs (kind of running in place and each step is a kick straight up so the balls stay in columns above each foot). Sebastian is proficient with juggling 5 soccer balls, including with tricks, and even with a 6th bouncing on his head. I’ve been trying to learn 5 big balls for years and Sebastian showed me a nice start (he actually starts with the hand holding 2 balls and after the first throw rolls a ball from the other side into his now empty hand before releasing the second ball from the other side).
Another juggler I enjoyed watching in the gym was Florian Canaval from Austria. He’s mostly a passer, but I saw him do what I had believed to be an impossible trick: 5 club backcrosses on singles. The best I saw him get was 6 or 7 catches, but it has real potential (here’s a video that contains a couple attempts). Japanese plate spinner, Masa, amazed with his fast-paced tricks, including 3 plates on sticks in each hand directly into 97531 using the plates and sticks. Christian Buch was practicing a lot and showed off amazingly solid skills. He did long runs of 5 club siteswaps and tricks with 6 clubs, too. Thomas Dietz was around, but I didn’t manage to seem him practicing. I was flattered, though, that when I asked if he remembered me, he remembered my egg juggling routine at IJC in 2005.
One of the coolest non-juggling skills I saw was by handstander, Emanuele Madau, who won the handstand competition in Millstreet last year. What I saw him practicing was doing a handstand on stilts. It required basic walking (on hands), as is the nature of regular stilts. He said he’s only been working on this for a couple weeks, but felt he was making a lot of progress every day was confident that it would be solid by the end of EJC. I definitely saw some impressive long attempts.
Svetlana Zueva regularly practiced in the gym and it was nice getting to hang out with her. She really been making the rounds this year at IJC, IJA, and now EJC. Her 5 clubs with a balance was solid enough for her to work on tricks like under the leg and behind the back, but she told me that it’s “not good enough to perform.” Even though she’s one of the best jugglers, she was intimidated by all the numbers jugglers and only worked on her 7 clubs a bit. Here’s a recent video of her at the IJA Fest by Marco Paoletti:
Yudai Kato from Japan does great ball tricks with behind the head throws solid with both hands with both 3 and 5 balls. Here’s a video of some of his 3 ball work (by Marco Paoletti):
Dominik Harant from Austria practiced a lot and is not only an expert in clubs, but he seems to always be having fun. I saw him doing a lot with 5, 6, and 7 clubs, as well as lots of numbers passing with various friends.
Another juggler who seemed to always be around was Albe Assouad from Milan. He specializes in balls and has a very lofty pattern with Norwicks. His effortless style comes through whether he’s doing long runs with 7 balls or crazy combinations with lower numbers.
Roxana Küwen from Germany is known for her tricks with her hands and feet, but I saw her working on something that truly amazed me: lying her on back with her legs in the air, she juggled 3 balls on the soles of her feet! Unbelievable!
I skipped the parade and opted instead to take advantage of a quiet gym. Here’s some good footage, though:
Buskers were given spots in various locations around town throughout the week. The first act I saw was Andrea Farnetani from Rome. He was a gentelman juggler who did a lot of classic tricks, very well executed. He did hat tricks, some rope magic, wine glass on mouthstick (including with balloon popped out from underneath), and 6 spoons into 6 cups. He was great with audience participation and working with some difficult kids but making them into heroes by the time they walked off the stage. For his finale he had a lower face mask with huge pucker lips, and he went around kissing half the audience (not just the women). It was a really warm and fun ending and all-in-all very likable.
Late Sunday night, Marco Paoletti did a one man show in the round. He started with lots of rolling cyr wheel and then moved on to his signature ball juggling with lots of bouncing. I liked the way he worked around and under his body with the balls as they multiplexed and siteswapped around him. His improv-style worked between 3 and 6 balls (I think) to music and spoken word. The night ended with dancing and the audience spontaneously joining him on the floor.
On Monday, I saw another street act: Les Trois Culottes, which I just found out means, “The Three Panties.” This was Passe-Pieds again, doing an act with a theme of washing clothes. They had some good slapstick humor that involved them picknicking on different levels of ropes with the higher ones drooling their spaghetti down onto the lower one’s plate, which she obliviously slurped up. The did a lot of high energy trapeze catches and releases as well as some dangerous swinging and moves from way on top of the rigging.
Another street show I saw was La Sbrindola (juggler Leonardo Cristiani and drummer Marco Macchione) from Italy. Live percussion really punctuated the juggling moves, but the most fun was the interactions between the performers. Balls bounced off drumheads, a huge exercise ball was spun on a drumstick and then spun on the spire of the hi hat cymbals, and more. For Leonardo’s tall unicycle routine, I liked the effect of putting a rocket sparkler aimed out the back as he zoomed around and juggled three torches. The finale had Marco drumming with the torches and lighting some huge sparklers the spouted about 4 meters of flames.
In the evening in the Big Top was the show Flaque by DeFracto (Guillaume Martinet and Eric Longequel). The performance incorporates dance, movement, and cutting edge juggling, all with a unique modern style. I saw it just a couple years ago so didn’t attend (though many of my friends who also had seen it loved it so much they did go again).
Monday night had an interesting improv night. Jugglers were chosen randomly to perform an act with a theme chosen from a hat. Themes included: explosions in every cell, Balance and unbalance, the crab awakes for his breakfast, like a leaf in the wind, your bones are heavy, and more. They were hard and, honestly, most of what I saw didn’t fit the themes, but it was a challenging exercise and interesting to see people being spontaneous on stage.
Later that night, I went to the Renegade tent. A bit rowdy and mediocre acts, but worth checking out sometimes for the occasional clever bits. I witnessed some stoll manipulation, hat juggling, a club and acro act, some really generic magic tricks, and a nice unicycle on slackrope held by volunteers. I was impressed by two strip-tease style acts: the first had a guy standing on another guy’s shoulders and both of them taking off their shirts (quite hard for the base), and the second had a shirt removed while club balancing (requiring a risky throw of the shirt to get it over the end of the club).
I used to be quite the yo-yo enthusiast so went to watch the yo-yo competition. There were only a few entrants, but the level was quite high. Yo-yo sure has come a long way since I learned all the advanced tricks back in the 90s (now they’re considered intermediate moves). Aside from the traditional yo-yo play, I saw some good two-handed, freehand, and off-string. The clear winner was Daniel Tamariz from Spain with his super fast skills. Here is a nice video lot of great general convention energy, but also a fair amount of yo-yo footage:
In the middle of the week, the EJC had the official organization meeting. Hosted by the new president and new secretary, they spoke about previous EJCs, voted in country reps, and saw presentations for future EJCs. Next year will be in Almere, Holland, and the team looks very well organized with great facilities. Then we saw presentations for 2017 by teams from Poland and the Azores Islands. Poland won and assured us that they learned a lot from their mistakes (mostly financial) in 2012 and will put on a great event for us. Azores was chosen to host in 2018.
Wednesday night was the circus schools show, featuring students learning around Europe. First up was Vincent Koller (Codarts Rotterdam NED) performing with meteor balls using a lot of body wraps and bounces (mostly off his shoulders, but also off his feet while handstanding). Next up was Pieter Visser (ACaPA – Tilbirg, Holland) playing around with balls and plastic bottles, in the combined styles of tennis ball & can and kendama. Third up was yo-yo hotshot Daniel Tamariz (Carampa – Madrid Spain) with a slick and smooth routine, highlighted by a cool double helix looking move and some baffling 3A string tricks with 2 yo-yos. Lukas Reichenbach and Mitja Ley (Die Etage – Berlin, Germany) came on as a warlock clown, featuring a diabolo magic knot with scissors, a 5 club marionette, a clever devilstick on elastic, and a hyponotized volunteer who became a juggling chicken complete with jerky throws and many poultry mannerisms. The emcees, Elias and Arianne, did a cute interlude with him seated and her lying down, and they passed between his hands and her feet. Sixth up was 5. Maximo Pastor Lopez (ESAC – Brüssels, Belgium) performed 3 and 5 clubs including balancing clubs on both forearms, and ending with 5 club helicopters. Robin Dale (Circomedia – Bristol, UK) worked flair bottles with lots of behind the back and behind the head catches, and many unexpected stalls (bottles landing upright) in different places. Next, Nina Wassmer (Ecole de cirque de Lyon – Lyon, France) diaboloed with stunning tricks: excalibur with many genocides, double-handstick suicides, some clever starts from hands and feet into regular and excalibur styles. Club juggler, Asaf Mor (CRAC – Lomme, France) had unique moves including an interesting manipulation that reminded me of an egg beater, some 4 club shapes, and ended with a crazy double multiplex start into 5 clubs. Lucas Castelo Branco (Le Lido – Toulouse, France) was the finale act. He acted out a poetic story using 3 white balls while doing all sorts of clever and surprising tricks.
Later that night, after the Open Stage, was Fight Night. The one-on-one combat prelims were held earlier in the day with 70 contenders, and the final 16 competed on stage this evening. The capacity crowd enjoyed grapples and smashes, high throws and last minute catches, and steals and recoveries galore. The main upset of the evening was JJ (Jochen Pfeiffer) losing at EJC for his first time in 8 years (in the 2nd round), and also losing the top spot in FNC standings after 2.5 years. The night’s winner was Eóin Allan who beat Luke Burrage in the finals. Full stats and videos and info can be found on the Fight Night website: http://fightnightcombat.com/tournament-EJC-2015-Bruneck.html.
Wednesday night during Open Stage, the 2016 EJC organizers did some brilliant guerrilla marketing. While we were all happily watching the show, they went around and covered every club they could find (around 2000 in all) with club sleeves advertising next year’s EJC in Almere, the Netherlands. The covers were stylish and many kept them on for the duration of the convention.
The games were held on Thursday afternoon on the soccer field. They seemed to make them as democratic and inclusive as possible, so that it wasn’t only possible for the best technical jugglers to win everything. Some examples include: wheelbarrow race with 2 pushes siamese juggling, unicycling around and pulling tails off others, hula hoop combat, 4 coin endurance, limbo contests with all manner of props, a diabolo trick that required you to throw the diabolo up toss your handsticks onto a string a few meters away and catch your diabolo in your hands, kids holding as many clubs as they could, 5 ball endurance with 1 between knees and then going into 6, and 5 club joggling. Since some classic endurances weren’t held, people spontaneously did simultaneous endurances of 7 balls, 3 diabolos, club balance, and handstand.
And of course, the games ended with a toss up:
In about 20 years of going to conventions, I’ve never been to a fire gala before. As a gym rat, I’ve always loved the fire shows since they’re one of the best times to juggle, as the gym clears and there’s lots of room to practice. But this year I made a special effort for the sake of my fine readers, and headed to the town square for the public show. There were some beautiful effects with juggling, pois, staffs, fans, clothes on fire, and even fire contact juggling. One performer used some Japanese invented props that seemed to switch between poi and solid torches, and also a sort of staff on a leash that -could be manipulated really quickly in different planes. A wide variety of styles were presented – passion, clowning, tribal, intense – and the pacing and pyrotechnics were quite good.
On Friday, some kind friends of a friend lent us electric bikes and we had a nice excursion to the mountains and to a nearby waterfall.
A bit before my conclusion, I’ll share a couple nice videos that give a good feel about the convention:
I’ll write more soon about the shows in upcoming articles here, but I wanted to end with some comparisons to Millstreet. First of all, attendance was up to around 4000 compared to 2345 in 2014. Last year, it seemed like the Norwegians were the big stars, but I think that this year the standouts in the gym and open stages were the Japanese. Last year, the popular tricks were top of head balances with balls and clubs, but this year it was rug spinning (while walking around, standing in lines, in group circles like hackysack, etc.). There was also a much bigger hooping presence this year, with traditional body spinning and also balances, isolations, and other manipulations.
Oh, and don’t fret, poor reader, I did manage to get some juggling in while I was there. Marco Paoletti captured me practicing: https://www.facebook.com/marco.paoletti1/videos/vb.719192951/10153597440307952/?type=2&theater
Melanie Möhrl had her juggling themed cartooons posted around the EJC site (and has kindly agreed to let us publish them here, and will post future ones on eJuggle, as well). Her latest, is titled, “EJC IS OVER WHEN…” follows:
Thanks to the photographers below for letting me use their photos for this article:
Luke Burrage: http://www.lukeburrage.com/blog/archives/2289
Justyna Karpińska (lots of albums): https://www.facebook.com/JustKarpPhoto/photos_stream?tab=photos_albums
EJC Press: http://ejc2015.org/pictures/
Melanie Möhrl: https://artandclub.wordpress.com/art-for-jugglers/
Vincent Groenhuis: www.ejc2016.org
The EJC 2015 facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EJC2015Bruneck
The EJC 2015 photo sharing page on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EJC2015BruneckPhotoSharing/