“Someone told me that nobody had ever done 6 balls at 6 years old, so that became my goal.” – Matan Presberg
The Early Years
Born in Rochester, New York, Matan Presberg grew up in the city, but close to the suburbs. He would go to school with the city kids and to summer camps with the suburb kids. His family life consisted of living with his mom and dad, his older sister, younger brother and younger non-binary sibling.
Matan always had arts as part of his life. He started violin lessons at age 4 and attended a school of the arts, majoring in piano.
6 at 6
Juggling entered Matan’s life when he had just turned 6. He was trying to learn the shower pattern himself, when he and his family randomly met the Rochester Juggling Club at a Kite Festival. Wes Peden, fellow Rochester resident, was performing at the festival with his dad. He remembers being taught the 3 ball cascade by a man named Don. As he had already been practicing so much, he picked up the cascade super quickly.
He remembers seeing someone juggling 5 balls, throwing one up and catching it on the back of the neck and he was completely blown away. Another memory from the festival was someone showing him how to throw one high from a cascade, catch it and keep going. He absolutely could not do that at that time!
Each week he started going to juggling club and practicing a lot. Someone had told him that nobody had ever done 6 balls at 6 years old, so that became his goal and a big inspiration for his progression. He thought in order to get a qualify he had to keep juggling until he got the catches. But then he learned that he could do 12 throws and stop and catch them. The next week club members brought in the cameras to document him doing 6 at 6, and he nailed it! The video went viral within the juggling community. Watch it here!
At age 7 he burned out and didn’t juggle any more for 7 years.
Matan was always obsessed with “something” and at age 8 he started doing chess. His grandpa was super into chess and always tried to get his grandkids to play with him. Matan picked it up and loved it. He ended up going to chess camps and playing chess competitively, often blowing people away with his skills at his young age.
He also played a lot of baseball from 9 to 14 years old and did track and running in 7th grade through high school.
Matan always adored math and he feels this is possibly a reason why he was naturally good at juggling and music. In his opinion, math, music and juggling are all very related.
Matan grew up Jewish and went to a Hebrew school K-12. He went to the synagogue often and did a lot of preparation for his bar mitzvah. For those who don’t know, a bar mitzvah is a coming of age ceremony for boys in the Jewish tradition. It is the first time a young man is called up for the reading of the Torah and is celebrated with a big party. Matan studied and learned the entire 3 hour bar mitzvah service and led it all by himself, a feat not often performed by young Jewish boys.
The summer after his 10th grade year, Matan had the opportunity to travel to Israel. First 16 kids from Israel came and stayed in Rochester for a week, then they all went to Poland together and toured concentration camps to learn about the holocaust, which Matan says was both educational and intense. They then traveled to Israel ad stayed with a host family for 10 days. It was a remarkable and memorable experience.
The Return of the Juggler
Matan doesn’t remember why he got back into juggling, other than he remembered it was something he enjoyed, so he started doing it again at age 14 and he never stopped.
He started going back to the Rochester Juggling Club and many people didn’t recognize him as the little boy who learned 6 balls at 6 years old. He attended the RIT Spring Juggle-In throughout high school, and several of the jugglers at RIT became friends of his who were instrumental in the development of his juggling style. He became super close friends with RIT students, Danny Buonocore and Alex Rozanov, and they juggled together all the time. They especially inspired each other’s unique, technical and creative ball juggling.
Matan attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and studied computer science in the department of engineering. He also obtained a minor in linguistics.
The circus culture in Ithaca was interesting. Amy Cohen had started a program called “Circus Culture,” which was a community circus school in Ithaca. He got to have some really great performing experiences with this program.
Matan pretty much led the juggling club since year one. He was the vice president officially that year, but did everything involved to keep the club going. College is also when he started going to more festivals. He attended all the Turbo 418 festivals in Quebec and started going to the IJA in 2015, also in Quebec, and a lot of regional festivals.
During his university years, he was seeing division one athletes work 10-20 hours per week extra on their sport and decided to do the same with juggling. As a result, his progress skyrocketed, and the juggling community took note! He quickly started medaling in IJA Numbers competitions, regularly winning games like 3 ball blind, 5 ball endurance, and even prop battles.
While in college, Matan became active in the online juggling scene and soon started to be seen as a respected and prominent juggling figure in the community. People started recognizing who he was and taking notice. He started being invited to perform places and it helped him to reach a new level of confidence on the stage. His first appearance in the Top 40 Jugglers was in 2016 and he has been on the list ever since, with his highest placement at #4 in 2018.
Becoming an IJA Volunteer
Approaching Erin Stephens and asking if she needed help with IJA marketing was one of the best decisions I ever made.
When asked why he started volunteering for the IJA, Matan states, “I was getting so much out of the IJA community, it made me want to be a part of it, to help them grow and make them better. Erin Stephens’ work specifically motivated me, the IRC program, the IJA social media, the Tricks of the Month videos … they inspired me and made me want to be involved.”
Matan has been on the IJA Marketing Team for 4 years, and just started his 4th year on the IJA board of directors. His volunteer work has been invaluable to the organization, and he has helped to add a level of respect and appreciation for the work the board does to keep the organization alive and thriving.
One of the most memorable parts of his time working with the IJA was getting the opportunity to travel to Mexico and Taiwan to help organize the IJA Regional Competitions. “I learned so much, met amazing jugglers, and had great vacations. It was a few moments in the wild of seeing how much the IJA social media inspired and had an impact on the lives of jugglers internationally and their personal progress within the community.”
Post College Years
Matan knew he wanted to move to a new area for a job after college and his destination ended up being the Bay Area in California. He moved to Oakland, CA in Fall 2018 to work for a tech company and has since become a regular member of the Bay Area juggling and flow community.
He has had a fascinating perspective of seeing the differences between the East and West coast juggling styles of the US and notes that the juggling and general vibe are both very different. The flow scene has a huge impact on the juggling style in California and he has learned a ton about that, now embracing learning poi and hoop skills, as well as a more fluid and flow-y club juggling style. There are no numbers jugglers in California, however, which he misses. There is also a lot less “robotic-ness,” which can add a very unique and interesting element to juggling, as can be seen in the style of the formerly mentioned jugglers of Rochester.
COVID and Beyond
“I feel like the juggling community is stronger than ever and poised to do really amazing things in the future.”
This last year has been a global collective trauma like nothing we’ve experienced before, but it has pulled together the juggling community in a really special way and with a very international lens. I feel like the juggling community is stronger than ever and poised to do really amazing things in the future.
During COVID, Matan got really into the live streaming scene. He started watching Marvin Ong on Twitch during the quarantine and it inspired him to be more active and get more connected with that scene. He started doing Twitch live streams in October and continues to do them. They have been a big motivation for him to continue training and improving.
Matan’s relationship with juggling now is a lot different than it used to be, but he still has the belief that juggling is something that can change people’s lives and the world. He thinks it’s really good for people physically and he hopes we continue to bring more people into the community and that juggling aids to continue to build a healthy relationship with ourselves as humans.