At this yearʼs festival at Bowling Green, Jay Gilligan will present a special workshop over three days. Called “Juggling Tricks: Start to Finish”, the workshop is open to anyone, of any age and skill level. Thereʼs an official workshop description at this website, but I asked Jay to expand on that. He said, “We will explore a core concept, give it a context, and then demonstrate it with concrete examples—usually consisting of little funny tricks that we will learn as a group. Once the concept has been explained, and everyone has a basic understanding of the idea, we will see how to apply the same principles to any juggling which the students choose. In other words, weʼll look at different ways to create, organize and practice juggling ticks which can be learned with minimum time and effort. Once a student understands the thought process behind the work, then any kind of juggling he/she prefers can go through the same process.”
The genesis of the workshop might be traced back to Jayʼstraining in dance school when a guest teacher presented. The students mimicked the instructorʼs stretches, but Jay could not feel the internal muscles being stretched; he just stuck out his leg without thought of what should be happening. The actions had no context. That is why he emphasizes context in his teaching in general, and with this workshop specifically.
Jay described what the participants could expect at the workshop. “After outlining the session we form a circle and simply follow-the-leader through watching my movements with the objects,” he said. “Usually this is followed with a task for everyone to complete in his own way. Students can pick out moments which interest them the most and work on them after the workshop is over. We all know juggling techniques can take a lot of time to learn, and I prefer to investigate ideas in the moment and leave the hardcore practicing for later in order to use our time together efficiently.”
Jay is a creative and skilled performer. In fact, he fully embodies the words that form “IJA.” He is “international.” Born in Ohio, Jay was blessed with supportive parents who drove him to weekly gatherings of Akronʼs Rubber City Jugglers. He worked with the Peachock brothers and the Cain brothers, who were of roughly the same age. Currently he lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and recently performed 106 shows in two months in Germany. He is indeed a “juggler” and someone who advances the art constantly. If you are unfamiliar with Jayʼs work, go to YouTube. What is currently up is a small part of a heritage that includes collaboration with dozens of the most forward thinking performers/creators of the last quarter century. That is the start of “association”. Many jugglers, young and old have been introduced to Jayʼs style and outlook through his Shoebox Tour. For the last several years, Jay has toured, most recently with Wes Peden as a collaborator. I work at a Catholic boysʼ school, Saint Ignatius High School, where we have hosted the event. As part of the experience Jay conducts a workshop with our Circus Company.
Here is a comment from a 16-year-old student who participated in Jayʼs workshop at the school. Scott Geyman said, “A truly inspiring individual, Jay Gilligan is the epitome of an outside- the-box thinker and juggler. His distinct ability to transform something as simple as three-ball and five-ball sharing into an entirely different concept is just another addition to his already magnificent repertoire. Jay’s personalized workshop inspired me to take multiple perspectives on basic sharing patterns, and Jay encouraged his students to use our imaginations to develop those patterns into more elaborate routines.”
Another student, 17-year-old Peter Prokop, said, “Just watching Jay Gilligan perform is a learning experience, so participating in his workshop is naturally incredible. Anyone who has watched Jay perform will agree that he brings a great energy to every motion. He brings the same energy as a teacher [who is] incredibly helpful, patient, and passionate about all things juggling. What I find most impressive about his workshop was that he doesn’t simply teach a couple of tricks, but presents a mindset, a new way to look at juggling. Jay’s approach allowed jugglers of all skill levels to take something from the experience and continue creating their own patterns.”
by Art Thomas (reprinted with permission from the IJA Newsletter)