A common old school juggling trick / routine is what is now known as the hoop and glass trick. For this routine, a glass filled part way with water is placed inside a wooden hoop, which is then spun and tossed, with the goal being to not spill the water. The first time I ever saw the the skill performed was in 1989, when magician / juggler Pat Hazzel demonstrated it at the IJA Convention in Baltimore, MD.
This trick has origins in two traditional folk dances. One of these is Tatsia folk dancing from the Island of Cyprus. In the dance, a glass is placed in a sieve, which looks just like the hoop we now used, but with a screen. Then the sieve, which is usually used to separate flour, is spun and twirled. Then, up to three glasses are manipulated in the sieve in this manner. You can see video of the Tatsia dance below.
The Tatsia dance is said to be hundreds of years old, so it would appear to be at least part of the origin of the hoop and glass juggling genre.
Perhaps a more direct influence is another old dance that includes hoop and glass work, which is the Schäfflertanz (Coopers’ Dance), performed by the barrel makers (coopers) of Munich, Germany. This dance is performed every seven years throughout the Carnival season. The coopers, who make barrels for beer, are highly respected in this famous brewing city. It is known that the dance is at least as old as 1702, and legends state that it started in 1517 following a plague. Since 1760, the dance has been performed every seven years – most recently in 2019, during the carnival season. As you can see at the 13:08 point in the following video, the dance includes hoop and glass swinging similar to what jugglers do today. The hoops used are the hoops that the coopers use in making barrels.
This is one of the only tricks that was advertised for sale in all three of the oldest juggling catalogs.
Below is an illustration that appeared in Otto Maurer’s Catalogue of Fine Juggler Goods, published in the late 1880s.
Below is an image from a Van Wyck Catalog from the very early 1900s.
De Vere’s catalog, from around the same time period as the Van Wyck catalog, advertised, “The Hoop and the glass. The artist fills a glass with water or wine, puts it in a hoop, makes it spin in every direction without spilling a drop.”
The trick seems to have been seen as belonging to both the world of juggling and the world of magic. The skill, called “The Whirling Hoop and Glass of Water,” was included in the 1901 magic book, The Magician’s Handbook by P. T. Selbit.
It was also part of the 1902 book, The Modern Magician’s Handbook, by William J. Hilliar, called by the same name. You can see the instruction for it below.
Perhaps the best known juggler of this period that performed with the hoop and glass was Joseph Rosani (1868-1944). Almost all of his publicity posters show him with these props.
Usually, the juggler would just use the hoop and glass without any additional props, but in 1900, a juggler named Moss toss juggled a hoop / glass along with a plate and bottle. It’s hard to say for sure, but it appears that the glass may have been set in a holder of some sort built into the hoop in this case.
In 1958, English magician Val Andrews released a booklet about the trick titled Aqua-Whirl. He acknowledges that it is really a juggling trick rather than a magic trick, saying, “A spot of “juggling” has always been a safe bet as an interesting “change-of-pace” for the magician, particularly where he is presenting a long programme.”
Despite the fact that we know this is a very old trick, I don’t know of many examples of jugglers performing the hoop and glass trick until more recently.
Modern Performers and Variations
Let’s take a look at some relatively modern performers of the hoop and glass and the variations they performed or currently perform.
One of the most famous jugglers to perform the hoop and glass was Boris Panfilenok, better known as Buba. Boris was a Russian juggler born in 1950. He performed from 1966 until his death in 2009. You can see his skill with the routine in the second half of the following video.
Another Russian who performed the routine was Nikolai Olchowikow, who did so on horseback.
Magician Mike Caveney has included the routine in his act for many years and is quite skilled at it.
Mantega Cirko builds an entire act around the skill.
Thomas John performs it as well, doing a comedy act with it.
Click here to see Val Slemzin’s routine with the props.
The Great Ballini includes a unique variation in his act, placing two glasses in one hoop.
One of the most skilled hoop and glass performers I’ve seen is Jacopo Candeloro, who does a very wide variety of tricks with the props.
Anton Franke and Viktor do an entire act of nothing but hoop and glass work.
Nathan Dorrell, a very versatile and underrated current juggler, has taken a note from Moss’ repertoire of toss juggling the hoop and glass and taken it a step further. He toss juggles three hoops, each with a glass of water in it.