Jugglers In Love

Over the past few months, my monthly eJuggle article has been connected to a holiday, and this month continues the trend.  For many people, February brings thoughts of Valentine’s Day, a day when much of the world recognizes the joys of love and when we celebrate those that we love romantically.

With this in mind, I thought it would be appropriate to pose some questions to several juggling couples about how juggling brought them together, how juggling has affected their lives, and how being a couple in love has affected their juggling.  I chose some couples who are likely familiar to IJA members who attend the annual festival.  The questions were posed to Rhonda and Will Murray, Erica Kelch-Slesnick and Scott Slesnick, and Laura and Peter Kaseman.

QUESTION 1 – How did the two of you meet?

Rhonda & Will – We met juggling on Oak Street Beach in Chicago.  Will, visiting from California, was trying to chat Rhonda up so he could bum crash space for the night.  Rhonda had been tipped off about him, so she was wondering how long he would pass with her before admitting he was freeloading.  We ended up sharing dinner with all the jugglers — greasy fries sitting on the curb of Rush Street!

The Murrays

Laura & Peter – We met at Laura’s first IJA in Las Vegas, 1995. Nothing significant happened there, but we remembered each other from the post festival camping trip. We played cards a few times.

The Kasemans

Erica and ScottAt juggling club. Erica was living in Cleveland at the time. She had called Kevin Delagrange, a local performer, to ask if there were any juggling groups in the area. He told her that the Rubber City Jugglers met in Akron, and gave her Scott’s name and number. She was 32 years old at the time. Scott was a young 25 year old, already the president of the club. He had a long-time girlfriend there with him who had gone along to watch the jugglers. We were friends for a few years before we began seriously dating.

Scott and Erica’s wedding

QUESTION 2 – What affect has the two of you sharing a hobby such as juggling affect you as a juggler?

Rhonda & Will – For Will, it’s been a blessing to live with a great juggler, someone to pass with, bounce ideas off of, to understand the need to juggle constantly.  For Rhonda, it’s a mixed bag.  The above is all true, but it can also be the opposite of inspiring to live with a compulsive practicer and showoff.  Sometimes we still need to juggle separately!

Laura & Peter – You would think that finding a special someone who also loves juggling would make us both better jugglers. And it did at first. But watch out when you have kids. One kid, no problem. We took him with us. Two kids, a little more challenging. We thought we could at least take turns juggling at a festival, but when they were young, it usually turned into both of us watching the kids and no one juggling.

The Kasemans’ passing with Jimmy Robertson

Erica & Scott – Both of us being jugglers has made it more likely that we would make it to juggling festivals as often as we do. Also, Erica had a handy substitute when she was teaching juggling classes for kids. Many people have assumed that Scott taught Erica how to juggle, but she learned about 13 years before we met.

QUESTION 3 – How has being two jugglers affected you as a couple?

Rhonda & Will – It has helped us understand each other.  We share a big part of what defines and drives us each as people.  It eased us through the first few years together as we got to know each other beyond the juggling and discovered that we were actually compatible in other ways.  It’s made it convenient to plan vacations, although the flip side of that is that we almost never have vacations that don’t revolve around other jugglers.

Rhonda and Will Murray

Laura & Peter – Well, It’s nice that our vacations are already planned out.  We just go to IJA!  Both of us have a great time, and we are together.  If just one of us were a juggler, we might want to have separate vacations.  Or we would both go to IJA but one of us would be doing the work of the vacation (watching kids, getting food) and the other having the fun of the vacation. It’s much better this way that we can share the work and the fun.

Erica & Scott – A juggling spouse might not be as impressed by your hobby/profession as a non-juggling one.  When doing a silly little show at a family reunion, we had a drop, and a heckler yelled “Ha, ha, Scott, she’s better than you!” as if it were such a shameful thing. Erica was so mad at that guy for saying that! It wasn’t necessarily true, but just the idea of having to compete added unneeded stress.

QUESTION 4 – Do you have any funny juggling / romantic or dating stories (that can be shared online)?

Rhonda & Will – So many…  A euphoric midnight New Year’s Eve passing session in a freezing circus tent in Madrid…  Navigating to a new juggling festival with Will insisting that we only take roads that are valid siteswaps….  But the biggest lesson we learned:  Never play unicycle gladiators with your wife if it turns out that she grew up as a competitive unicyclist.  That cost Will a severely dislocated shoulder and six (6!) shots of morphine.  On the plus side, Rhonda stayed with him all night in the operating room, so he knew she was a keeper.

Laura & Peter – Funny story–when Tony was a baby, we would take him to all the juggling festivals. Parenting never takes a break, so when it was time for the 7 club endurance contest, we entered with Tony strapped in the backpack on Peter’s back. During the contest, Tony got a little fussy, so Peter started bouncing, while still passing. To this day people still bring up what a fun moment that was!

Erica & ScottAt our wedding, people were wondering why the ring bearer’s pillow was so big. When it was time to “exchange the rings” and we opened it up and took out six purple Dubé passing rings, the crowd’s response was priceless.

The Slesnicks

QUESTION 5 – Do you have any advice for jugglers in love?

Rhonda & Will – (a) Don’t make your juggling be all about your relationship.  Enjoy juggling together, but maintain your separate and distinct interests (both in juggling and in life). (b)  Don’t make your relationship be all about your juggling.  Again, enjoy juggling together, but there is a lot more to life after one or both of you is done juggling for the day (or for the year).

Laura & Peter – We recommend it.  Here are some ideas: Ask your potential new juggling sweetheart for juggling advice.  Compliment them on stuff.  Go to the festival organizer and ask for there to be a huggling workshop.  Then make sure you and your friend both get to the workshop.  (No, we didn’t do this.)  Ask that person who’s caught your eye if they’ll be hungry in the next few days.  Then plan a time for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Everyone’s got to eat, right?  It worked for us.

Erica & Scott – If you have children together and decide to take them to juggling festivals when very young, remember you’ll both want to juggle, so be fair and balanced with who has to supervise the kids when!

Scott Cain is an IJA Life Member, IJA Numbers Championships Co-Director, a former Numbers gold-medalist, Teams medalist as a member of Raising Cain, Musical Theater Critic for Talkin’ Broadway (Cincinnati/Dayton), and assistant curator/researcher for the Historical Juggling Props Museum (www.historicaljugglingprops.com). He and his family live in Cincinnati, Ohio (USA).

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