The 66th annual International Jugglers’ Association Festival took place from July 15th-21st, 2013. The event featured everything from busking, vaudeville, stage championships, a cascade of stars, and juggling 27/7 in two spacious gymnasia at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. This year marked the return of the IJA to a collegiate setting, and brought together jugglers from all over the world.
The Taste of Vaudeville was the first main stage event. Steven Ragatz opened, performing his signature ball and briefcase routine. For this act, Ragatz took the stage dressed in a suit and tie while holding a briefcase. He then took a ball and manipulated it around his briefcase and body in a variety of different ways, eventually ending the routine with a five ball juggle using large stage balls. Ragatz performed a rolla bolla routine later in the show, where he took several blocks resembling briefcases and stacked them up on a rola bola, adding a block to the top after each successful run and eventually rolling from one side of stacked blocks to the other and back again.
Rob Torres performed in a clown persona between acts, hyping up the crowd and landing jokes through international body language. Later in the show, he performed several acts of manipulation, including a comic shaker cup routine, a very rare thing in the juggling world.
Other acts during the opening show included Ohio native David Cain talking to the audience and performing juggling while playing musical instruments, and a brief yet high-energy acrobatics performance by Chauncey Kroner and Kellin Quinn of Circus Harmony. (Kellin was last year’s Juniors champion.)
Dextre Tripp performed a rope walking routine, where he narrated the difficulty of his moves to the audience while attempting them. Tripp, along with his wife Jayna Lee, also performed a dog act during the second part of the show, getting their trained rescue animals to walk across a narrow board on Tripp’s command.
IJA regulars, the Jugheads, performed an appropriately vaudevillian act dubbed “Dance Styles Around the World,” juggling to various bits of music while wearing and acting out the time period and/or genre of the music being played. They opened up with “Gangnam Style” and moved onto other musical works, incorporating more and more Jugheads as they progressed.
In one of the more acquired taste performances of the evening, Jonglissimo, along with Thomas Dietz, did a non-stop 14 minute juggling routine to Bolero music, keeping their demeanors very serious and requesting that the audience not applaud at any point during their act. The group later returned to perform a more tongue-in-cheek robot juggling routine, with one juggler playing the scientist, and another playing a robot that had been engineered for the purpose of juggling, as they juggled glow clubs back and forth. They finished by attempting to push their limits with a 12 club passing pattern.
The following day saw the Youth Showcase followed by the Juniors Championships on the same stage.
As it does every year, The Youth Showcase excelled at showcasing up and coming talent and organized youth training schools. Several solo acts, one only six years old, performed, and various circus performance schools such as the St. Ignatius High School Circus Company, Circus Harmony, and the Jugheads were represented throughout the showcase. Among the performers was 12-year-old Chris Hasser, who was one of the harder working performers at the festival, as he also appeared in Tuesday’s benefit show for the community up in the nearby city of Toledo and in the Planting the Juggling Seed show for children in the Bowling Green community on Thursday.
The Juniors Competition followed the Youth Showcase. Returning competitor Yoko Ono did a toss juggling sequence, and then followed that up with some multiball contact juggling in the center of the stage. Third place went to Patrick Fraser, with his polished toss juggling routine. Yusuke Yokoyama, who wowed the crowd with several creative and complicated patterns involving catches around his neck, took second place.
In what was one for the IJA history books, Ashley Ellis took first, the Juniors gold medal going to a female for the first time in over 30 years. And she won with batons! Ellis started out in the persona of a popcorn girl just trying to get by, but when a loud voice came over the speaker system stating that “this Dietz guy couldn’t make it” and now it was “her chance.” She then threw down her service worker attire, and began manipulating a baton. Ellis worked her way up in numbers, doing various juggling patterns with the batons in a highly polished routine, ending with a brief five baton juggle.
The Teams and Individuals competition the next night was fascinating due to the great differences between the competitors’ styles.
The Institute of Jugglology returned, competing in Teams for their third consecutive year, though this time under the moniker “The Corporation of Jugglology.” Their routine took place in a universe where symmetry had been banned. The duo displayed their trademark high numbers passing of mixed props throughout their routine, occasionally being interrupted by an alarm that would sound, noting that they had been identified for violating the ban. At the end of the performance, they seemed to rebel, dumping balls all over the stage, and finishing strong.
Mountain Motion combined technical juggling with creative flow arts when the team of three performed decked out in classy 1920s style attire. The choreography was solid, not just in terms of the juggling execution, but also how each person moved and how each was positioned in relation to one another. One of their most effective visuals was when they were positioned one in front of the other, and began juggling and club swinging in a staggered fashion, giving the impression of one many-armed juggler. Mountain Motion took third place for their performance.
Second place went to IJA stage veterans the Kikyo Brothers. In a routine reminiscent of last year’s winning performance by Daniel and Dominick, the Japanese team took the stage in the dark, while glow clubs slowly illuminated in time with slow piano music. They then launched into their act, passing glow clubs between the two of them. After the lights came on, they moved onto some of their trademark Kikyo Brother moves, such as vertical club passing from a shoulder stand, and passing high numbers while alternating doing 360s. The brothers concluded by each putting on a headpiece that matched their costumes, then executing more passing with spins. The headpieces would release confetti after each spin, causing a very moving visual as they concluded their act.
First place winners, The Pastels, a four-man team from the University of Tokyo, received a standing ovation after their opening performance. The troupe wowed the audience with an incredibly polished club passing act that saw a variety of technical four-person passing patterns and club moves using the whole space of the stage, and peppering the air with seemingly countless clubs. They even incorporated some acrobatics into their routine, leaping around and jumping atop each others’ shoulders to pass clubs back and forth. The energy and precision of the act sealed their gold medal.
After the Teams competition, the show transitioned seamlessly into the Individuals competition, opening with late replacement Chase Martin, a North Carolina high school teacher.
Martin’s act consisted primarily of bounce juggling, going from three to five balls. Throughout the act, he executed a variety of technical moves that ranged from a five ball pattern, where he alternated raising his leg over the balls, to a unique three ball trick, where he balanced on a rola-bola, and alternated throwing from one hand onto the bounce surface in front of him, and throwing from the other hand behind his body so that it bounced off of the rola-bola and back into the pattern in front of him. Martin threw in a few toss juggling five ball siteswaps with the bounce balls as well, and concluded with a five ball toss/bounce hybrid move.
In one of the more theme-oriented acts of the evening, 2012 IJA Juniors winner Kellin Quinn came to the stage wearing a chef’s hat, with various food and cooking implements set up all around the stage, but no actual juggle props. Quinn began juggling three rubber chickens; but instead of letting the prop dictate the act, he executed a variety of highly technical patterns with the chickens, even pulling off a scissor catch before setting them into a large pot. He then juggled with what appeared to be potatoes and cooking whisks. For the grand finale, Quinn pulled out three apples and began to juggle them. While the juggling-based audience looked on with a slight sense of bewilderment, Quinn took two bites out of one apple, while juggling two apples in his other hand. Quinn then floored the puzzled onlookers by then flashing the three apples high, spitting out the two bites into his hands, and going into a five object juggle with three apples and two apple bites. This unique character-based act earned Kellin Quinn a third place medal.
Crowd favorite Wes Peden came through with his signature highly technical yet creative style that festival attendees have come to love and expect. Juggling clubs and balls, Peden did a variety of complex and hard-to-describe tricks, using multiplexes, full-body movement, under-the-leg catches, and dabbles of numbers juggling. It was a fairly straight-forward, yet very aesthetic routine, earning Peden second place.
The gold medal in Individuals went to Kyle Driggs, for his exceptional rings and umbrella routine. While slow new age music played, Driggs juggled rings in a variety of creative ways and tossed an umbrella around and balancing it in various ways. Driggs kept the audience captivated with his dance-like performance, and drew applause for tossing his open umbrella high, having it tumble, and catching it on his head into a balance, as well as maintaining the balance while juggling rings at the same time.
Saturday saw the Cascade of Stars, the final show of the festival, bringing in the biggest audience.
Jay Gilligan and Wes Peden opened with their “43 Tricks” routine, where they alternated juggling and integrating props with one another throughout the act. The duo later returned to the stage after intermission for a similar experimental act called “29 Props.”
The Quebec Circus School’s Veronique Provencher presented a polished diabolo act. Provencher had a subtle clown-like appearance and mannerisms throughout her act, which brought a level of personality to the routine that the audience greatly enjoyed.
Sem and Teresa Abrahams unicycled their way onto the stage, executing some high-level tricks as well as incorporating one another by doing acrobatics while unicycling, with Sem as base unicyclist and Teresa as flier. After that, Sem went into a balancing act that involved sitting on a chair and precariously balancing the two back legs on platform. Abrahams continued to up the difficulty of the trick until he was ultimately sitting in a chair and balancing with only one leg in contact with the top of a bottle on the platform.
Ashley Ellis returned to the stage to perform her gold-medal winning routine from three days prior. In what was likely impromptu comedic genius, after Ellis discarded her popcorn girl attire due to “that Dietz guy not being able to make it” and concluded her routine, Thomas Dietz took the stage for his performance slot wearing Ellis’ discarded popcorn girl attire.
After giving the audience time to laugh at his wardrobe choice, Dietz transitioned into a flawless glowball routine, starting with three balls while Canon in D played over the speaker system. Dietz did a variety of weaving patterns and worked his way up to five balls before wrapping up this moving routine. The lights then came on, and Dietz (after discarding his popcorn girl wardrobe) launching into an even more technical routine with five through seven balls, concluding with some rapid siteswaps while the William Tell Overture carried his routine to its end.
Jeton the Gentleman Juggler brought an old-school juggling feel to the stage. Clad in an impeccable tux and tie, Jeton performed feats such as kicking a cane and hat up to balance on a cigar in his mouth, tumbling a full mirror on his face to and from a balance, and kicking tea cups up to catch on a small saucer atop his head.
Markus Furtner performed his new Latino Devil Stick routine. Providing a highly technical devil stick act in a Hispanic persona complete with broad-brimmed hat and mustache, Furtner concluded many of his big moves by exclaiming “Olé!” throughout his performance.
Michael Rosman and Moira Lee provided several comedic performance bits between acts, including a parody on magic misdirection involving a ninja, and an acrobatics routine where they would freeze in position and spit out water like statue fountains.
The show ended with Jonglissimo performing an all glowclub routine. They started by taking the stage slowly, and juggling together, before breaking into higher and higher numbers club passing, filling nearly all of the stage space with flying neon clubs.
During the daytime hours, the festival occupied two vast, connected gyms, one with an indoor running track that got a workout from the unicyclists and the other covered in Astroturf-like material, good for softening the landings of props such as cigar boxes. The 100+ workshops, organized by Dave Pawson, ranged from “Things to do With a Partner While Juggling Three Balls” to “Goals and Directions of the IJA” were held in various parts of the latter. There were also three special workshops this year: “Technique Control Motivation” by Thomas Dietz, “Act Creation Workshop” with Steven Ragatz, and “Juggling Tricks: Start to Finish” taught by Jay Gilligan.
Vendors at the festival included: Sportco, Juggling Fashion, Air Traffic, Yoyo Traffic, Bahama Kendama, Fancy Faces, Infinite Works, Three Finger Juggling, Pass the Props, Juggling 4 Success, Kit Summers (selling his latest book), the Juggheads, Gballz, and Joyful Juggling.
The Juggling History Lounge made its return at the festival, featuring exhibits provided by Paul Bachman and David Cain. This area featured everything from antique juggling clubs, to props used by famous jugglers, and a table featuring items from Ohio jugglers of note.
The late-night Renegade sessions were held at the historical Clazel Theatre in downtown Bowling Green. Acts included the return of Muffin Clutches, a juggling version of Fear Factor, and Wes Peden putting the crowd into a frenzy by raging around on stage in his underwear, juggling everything in sight, and throwing props and beer into the audience.
XJuggling had another successful year, taking place on a small stage in the middle of the gym. Doug Sayers took first place in 6+ balls with his usual DB97531; Chase Martin won 4/5 balls with a bounce juggling sequence, and Jack Denger took first in four clubs with a long and dropless connection sequence.
Surprise entrant Wes Peden got the audience fired up by starting his trick by throwing a club over the stage, then running onto and off the stage before unleashing a few five club moves, including running a five club reverse spin cascade to take the gold in the five club category.
International juggler Alfredo Zavala was presented with a special award for his style and achievements during XJuggling, which gave him access to one of the special guest workshops.
Despite the possibility of a looming rainstorm threatening the outside venue, the annual World Joggling Championships took place at the university’s track. In addition to setting some event records, several undisputed World Records were also set, including Eric Walter competing the three ball 400 meter in 0:55.8, Gabrielle Foran getting the women’s 1,600 meter three ball at 5:58 even with one drop, and Thomas Dietz setting the new seven ball 100 meter joggling record at 0:53.6.
The Numbers Competition took place inside the main gym, allowing many of the jugglers nearby to casually watch without having to leave the main area. Doug Sayers took first place in the balls, juggling nine balls for 42 catches. Jack Denger took home gold in clubs with 49 catches of seven clubs. Sam Malcolm and Manuel Mitasch somehow managed to tie for first place in solo rings with 25 catches of eight rings each. In the teams, Peter Kaseman and Doug Sayers set a new IJA ball passing record with 111 catches of 14 balls. Dominik Harant & Daniel Ledel took the gold in both club and ring passing, setting event records as well. The duo also teamed up with Manuel Mitasch to set a new world record in three person passing with 173 catches of 17 clubs.
After taking a year off, the Busking Competition returned to the IJA festival. This year, the buskers were positioned at various locations in the downtown area, a mile or two from the gym space. The event brought a good community turn-out, and went well in execution, with the exception of the Fire Chief showing up at the event mid-performance to inexplicably ban any performers from using any fire props, even though the IJA had already gotten the clearance to do so.
Experienced busker, Gypsy Geoff took first place in the Busking Competition with a crowd interactive show that involved hat manipulation, plate spinning with the audience, and various balancing acts. At one of the Renegade shows, Geoff was given a trophy that was fashioned after the busking Butterfly Man himself, the late Robert Nelson.
The Fun Fund, provided by the IJA’s anonymous donor iiWii, was used this year once again to add enhancements to the festival, particularly in the main gym. The ever-popular Juggler’s Lounge was set up in the corner for tired jugglers who just wanted to relax. Much of the side of the gym was dedicated to The Gauntlet II, a newer and improved version of The Gauntlet obstacle course from the 2011 festival. This year’s Gauntlet featured motorized swinging foam hammers, and an automatic digital timer. Other Fun Fund activities included hovercrafts, a mechanical bull, and a bungee cord run.
Additional events of note at the festival included the return of fire nights, the open stage, late night games, and a large parade of jugglers downtown.
Next year, the IJA will once again return to a University setting as it will be held at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, USA from July 28 – August 3, 2014. If this year’s successful college venue event was any indication, then jugglers have a lot to look forward to at next year’s 67th Annual IJA Festival.