The Netherlands Juggling Championships 2018
For my first juggling event of 2018 I was kindly invited to act as a judge at the Dutch Juggling Championships. I went along to de Cacaofabriek in the city of Helmond and here follow my recollections and musings from the weekend.
Travelling and the Venue
I had a very vivid dream about being exceptionally good at Sjoelbak but when I woke up I remember that aside from one very flukey go (one disk short of 120 points!) this was not the case. I think Dave remained the only player to achieve 120 points.
We had a very civilised (but early) breakfast of croissants, meats and cheeses while Leanne tried to describe what ‘crooked’ meant. We piled our bags in Melissa’s car, thanked her parents for letting us stay and then headed across country towards Helmond.
I was bitterly disappointed by the fact that we didn’t see a single windmill on the way but this was made up for by the fact that Dave and I found the reason for why clogs actually exist. Esther told us about her mansion and sang to Melissa whilst Lauge stayed very quiet and ignored Dave and I talking rubbish.
We arrived at the Cocoa Factory and hustled across the car park to the main building, first impression was it had a very strange smell which I couldn’t attribute to chocolate. It later occurred to me that I had not seen much evidence at all of actual chocolate manufacture, the venue seemed to be more orientated around hosting shows and events (makes sense really, but still disappointing). I like the Netherlands, everything is Orange.
We had a bit of a juggle while the early birds arrived before Dave, Mees, Lauge and I headed upstairs to be debriefed on our judges’ duties for the ball juggling competition. The judging for the completions was quite straightforward on paper. Competitors were judged on a number of set categories along the lines of complexity, originality, connections, diversity and control. As judges, it was our job to individually rate each competitor on the different categories and assign them a number 1-10 based on how well we think that they hit the categories with their routines. At the end of the competitions we would collate our own individual scores together and, if necessary, justify why we gave particular scores. This was very useful as we were all coming from different juggling backgrounds and each of us was paying more mind to different aspects of a person’s juggling. The collated values would be entered into a program which assigns a score for each aspect based on the weighting factor of that aspect. This year the emphasis was on the difficulty of the patterns juggled and also on the originality of the tricks and connections being displayed.
Ball & Club Juggling Competitions
After the meeting we had some time for a quick spot of juggling before the ball juggling competition began at 12:00. I was a little upset as I think I may have accidentally killed my headbounce ball. I read on Thom Wall’s headbouncing guide that you should be careful of using an incorrect pump for the type of ball valve that you have. I remember thinking to myself ‘Oh, I’ve never had a problem with that’ and then I read on. Well, I suspect that my pump has damaged the valve as my ball seems to deflate now. I am pretty upset as I have had that ball a long time and we have shared a lot of happy times together.
There were 9 competitors taking place in the competition and it was a really weird experience. A lot of the competitors did their juggling in silence which was only punctuated by very polite applause from the audience after particularly interesting (or well executed) tricks. It was very much a display of technical juggling but to me it felt quite stale somehow. Anyway, I didn’t have much time to dwell on that as I was busy writing scores. After the competition we all headed upstairs to our deliberations. It was VERY difficult doing the scoring for the competitors and we did have a very lively discussion which took a good few hours, we actually had to break off early to go and judge the club juggling competition. The club competition followed the same format as the balls but this time only Dave, Lauge and I acted as judges and only 7 competitors took place.
Again we retired to the room upstairs for our deliberations and we finished off the balls competition judging with Mees. We also needed to provide some written feedback to the competitors in the form of a couple of positives and some things which could be improved upon. It is actually very difficult to provide actual constructive feedback in just a few short bullet points. We found it very difficult to give good constructive feedback in just a few lines. I really hoped that some of the competitors might seek out the judges after the competition to have a chat and get some real one to one feedback going which we would all have been more than happy to do (as far as I am aware nobody did). Unfortunately time was against us as the deliberations and need to judge other competitions gave us a very limited amount of time.
Evening Food – Fight Night Qualifications – Passing
We finished at around 6pm and went down to the on-site restaurant for our evening meal. I had all of the bits of vegetable lasagne that Dave didn’t want. Whilst I ate I watched people playing 3 club gladiators in preparation for the combat tournament which would take place later in the evening. I was easily persuaded to take part and Tiddo very kindly lent me a set of clubs. Qualifications went swimmingly and I managed to seed 1st place having not lost a match and only losing 4 points in 14 games. I was pretty chuffed with that, especially as I have had 3 months off from juggling clubs.
After the qualifications Tiddo and I had a really good passing session. We did the 8 club ultimates switch to sync and back which he hadn’t tried before. We also worked on 10 club 2 count (best run about 27 catches) and all 11 club 2 count (not as good as 10).
Just before the beginning of the act competition the winners of the balls and clubs competition were announced and the prizes were given. Foppe Coenen took first place for balls and Bas Van de Kerkhof won the club competition.
Maarten Wils was our host for the evening and I don’t think he would disagree if I said he talked a right load of rubbish throughout the evening. It was pretty entertaining. I sat next to Tom who very kindly corrected my spellings of everyone’s names (very necessary) and translated Maarten’s ramblings (wholly unnecessary).
Circus Amersfoort kicked off the show with a club passing routine filled with lots of different tricks and patterns. There were 6 members of the team and although they were a little droppy they handled themselves very well. I enjoyed the scrambled V (everyone loves a scramble).
Felix Feldmann performed his juggling routine with his special ball sticks. I’ve seen this routine a few times now and I still really love it. All the tricks are of Felix’s creation and utilise the properties of the clubs. I actually love the fact that all of the club balances are done onto the helmet that he wears as well, that’s not easy! Lovely routine, great character, costume, music but all amazing skills.
An electrician had to be called on stage to repair a broken lamp at this point. Enter Roel Post who did a lovely diabolo routine whilst tethered to the lamp post with his diabolo string. It was a really nice big and entertaining routine. I did get a little bored about halfway through as it felt like some of the tricks were being repeated a bit. This improved when the two diabolos came out and I was fond of the LED diabolo finish in the lamp. Good routine.
Nick Willemsen arrived on stage in an immaculate costume to a commentary which made all the Dutch people laugh and proceeded to do a yo-yo routine. I don’t know much about yo-yo but could tell it was very techy and, judging by some gasps from the audience, I suspect very good.
Jasper performed a piratical themed routine with an excellent costume and very epic music but I spent a lot of the routine wondering why a pirate of the high seas had an attaché case… The juggling knives were a great idea and went well with the theme but overall it was quite a droppy performance.
During the 20 minute interval I ate a delicious Raspberry and Dark Chocolate energy bar, watched a load of combat taking place in the lobby, discovered a hole in my shoe (buy cheap buy twice) and met an EJC gnome on the registration desk (they get about don’t they…). I also made an amazing discovery about the Belgian language which Tom can tell anyone who is interested.
Matthijs Michels opened the second half with a lovely routine set in what looked like an American diner. There were some excellent skills on display including tricks with 5 and 6 balls, all done very cleanly. I really enjoyed the neat ring juggling section. At the end of the routine we all sang happy birthday to Matthijs as it was in fact his birthday and he had turned 13 earlier in the day.
Cristiaan Van de Burgt performed his routine, The Librarian. It was an excellent cigar box routine set to various renditions of ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’. Plenty of very hard tricks, audience interaction, book stamping and all round great presentation. Very good routine.
Lars took to the stage to deliver a diabolo routine amid rather too much smoke. It was a very atmospheric routine made creepy by him wearing a full face mask which stopped any kind of audience interaction. It was a good routine filled with a lot of very techy diabolo but some of the repeated trick sections felt to me like they went on too long. I appreciated how well he stayed in character throughout.
Don Jan Daumin performed a lovely gangster themed routine with Foppe acting as an assistant. I really enjoyed the finishing touches which showed the character really well and of course because it was Jan there was some excellent ball juggling on display. Tom pointed out that the balls looked quite golden under the lights. Lots of shower patterns, don’t want to spoil it but he dies in the end. Great routine.
Pieter Jan took to the stage to show us a more gangsta style diabolo routine with lots of clever baseball cap manipulations mixed in with the diabolo tricks. It was a very technical routine which was presented brilliantly and went very well with the music. I really enjoyed it a lot.
That was the end of the show, the only thing left to do was to vote for your favourite act by leaving your card in a box marked with your favourite acts name (BYJOTY style), and the winner would receive the audience choice award. I chose to give my card to Felix but it was a tough choice.
Fight Night Tournament
A small crowd came together to watch the fight night tournament which was hosted by Maarten and Melissa. I had a good match against Tiddo and a fun one against Sander. Sander and I both play a very quick first attack so it took very little time for us to play our match, it was very quick fire. I met Lauge in the final match which had some really good points in it. I was disappointed with the final point as I got myself trapped in the corner with Lauge behind me and I did a panic drop. It was a well-deserved win for Lauge and we both enjoyed the match.
I have no idea what time it was but I was shattered. Melissa, Leanne and Tom were all heading back to the hotel so I tagged along. It was a brisk 10 minute walk and it was freezing cold. The hotel was very smart, a little bit too posh for all the jugglers. There was an option to juggle into the night at the hotel but I opted for a shower and bed instead.
I crept out of the hotel room early, trying not to trip over Lauge’s bags (he had arrived back sometime in the early hours. I took a short walk down the road to Lidl to buy some supplies and then realised that it was a Sunday in mainland Europe. Went on to the venue and had a very dairy orientated breakfast. I was invited to join a group who very kindly made sense of some of the trains for me, engineering works had resulted in buses on some routes. I enjoyed watching everyone having their chocolate sprinkles on bread.
I had a bit of a ring juggle before going through to watch the rings competition, since I had brought them all the way and not used them yet. It was a very good juggling day for me so I was happy to sit and watch the ring competition with Maarten. We talked about how strange the format was, apparently they tried a similar competition event one year in Belgium and it just didn’t take off at all. I found out later that Foppe won the rings competition, he is just a little bit good at juggling.
Afterwards the awards for the acts competition took place. I was delighted that Felix won, closely followed by Pieter Jan and Roel Post. Cristiaan Van de Burgt won the audience choice award and I was really pleased for him too, it was a very entertaining routine.
Farewells – Apes on a Plane – British Fail
I gathered together my belongings and started doing the rounds saying my goodbyes to everyone. I took a walk down to Helmond station and went cross-country to Eindhoven, Rotterdam and finally to Schiphol airport. As normally happens when I travel I ended up having an excellent juggle in the airport. Ball juggling was working really well so I had a good hours numbers session before my flight. On the flight I was sat next to a “lads’ weekend” group and had a very tedious journey back whilst I listened to their alleged escapades and various world views.
Back in the UK I was a good 2 hours early for my train and according to my ticket I could get it amended for a fee. I spoke to the assistant on the desk who proposed to amend my ticket by charging the price of a full replacement ticket at £30. Instead I elected to have another ball juggling session in the lobby at Manchester Airport Station. It was an excellent practise session so thank you to the British train network for being inept.
I had an excellent time at the Dutch Juggling Championships! In the beginning it felt a bit strange but once you put that aside and went with the flow it worked. I really liked the venue although didn’t experience enough chocolate. The food was good at the venue and the convention was awesome value when you consider the hotel accommodation and food was included in your ticket price. I had a good time and saw some awesome technical juggling displays. Having judging duties made it more of a working weekend as I didn’t get any time for my own juggling which was a bit of a shame but it was an great experience.
Thank you to Melissa and Leanne (and their parents!) for being excellent hosts and hosting the event. Thank you to my fellow judges Dave, Lauge and Mees for the lively discussions and, I think, successful judging. There was a big team involved in the convention and it is impossible to name everyone but it was a great success and I am very grateful to you all.