The 2014 IJA Festival Review

The 67th annual IJA festival was held in West Lafayette, Indiana. Like the previous year, this event was also held at a college campus, this year being Purdue University. The Festival Director for this event was Cody “Pyrus” Fiereck, who comes from a background in organizing fire festivals.

Patrik Elmnert performing in the Welcome Show

Patrik Elmnert performing in the Welcome Show

The main practice space was a large gymnasium with hardwood floors. Vendors lined the perimeter of this area, and workshops took place along the walls in slightly cramped, yet manageable areas at the far end of the gym. A smaller neighboring secondary gymnasium was host a few of the smaller competitions, as well as the special workshops taught by: Patrik Elmnert, Cyrille Humen, and Richard Kennison.

“Diverse” is the word that comes to mind when it comes to describing the overall atmosphere of this year’s festival. The special guest performers came from a variety of circus arts backgrounds, the stage competitors couldn’t have been any more different, and there was an exceptionally large turnout of flow artists, spinning poi and hoops in groups throughout the gym.

David Cain provided a glimpse of his juggling history museum by having several tables in this gym with his historical props on it at one point during the festival. Cain also brought his custom made “Chaos Clubs” with him to the event, and challenged jugglers to try to juggle them for 15 catches.

The on campus stage venue, the Stewart Center, served as the venue for the stage shows and championships. Book Kennison served as MC for the first event there, the Welcome Show, an event that featured a diverse lineup of performers.

The show opened with a two person acrobatics act called The Acrobatrix, who broke the modern two person acrobatics act mold by instead of performing a choreographed act to music, they provided non-stop spoken word comedy throughout their performance as they transitioned from move to move.

Curt Carlisle was up next and performed spin top tricks and comedy. The show then took a more serious turn with the next few acts: Brian Thompson & Cassie McKenney performed a choreographed two person hoop manipulation and juggling act, IJA Chairwoman (at the time) Erin Stephens executed a powerful 3-5 ball juggling routine, and Cyrille Humen danced around on stage with a single ball in a bodyrolling performance.

Perhaps one of the more unexpected acts was the juggling supergroup The McQuiggs, which featured Kellin Quinn, Nathan Biggs-Penton, and Willem McGowen. The McQuiggs performed an experimental routine which involved passing laundry baskets full of balls back and forth on stage, sometimes throwing the whole units back and forth, other times passing just the balls within to one another in interesting ways. The McQuiggs performed a second act later in the show, which saw the trio doing a comedy dance/juggling routine to the song “Good Morning” from the musical Singing in the Rain (complete with Kellin Quinn in drag).

In the second half of the show, poi spinner Justin Benson executed a solid poi routine.

Thom Wall and Benjamin Domask performed bottle and plate manipulation tricks as excerpts from their “Dinner and a Show Show.”

2013 IJA Regional Competition Mexico winner Adrian “Nino” Torres made an appearance at the event, and performed a black light flower stick routine while dressed like a ninja.

Lastly, special guest Patrik Elmnert brought the show to a close with a ring routine that combined creativity with technical skill.

 Isabella Majzun in the Youth Showcase

Isabella Majzun in the Youth Showcase

The Youth Showcase and Juniors Championships saw many new up and coming young jugglers as well as a few established but improving returning performers putting their skills on display. This event was hosted by Jen Slaw and Michael Karas. Between acts, the duo “huggled” and performed snippets from their production “Perfect Catch: A Throw-mantic Comedy”.

For the Youth Showcase, many of the performers went on as a group. This included the Hawaiian team “The Hiccups from Hawaii” and frequent IJA performance group The Jugheads, who did a juggling-based rendition of “West Side Story” featuring more than a dozen Jugheads.

In the Juniors Competition, Delaney Bayles took third place in an act that saw her dress in camouflage so that she blended into a wall, before stepping out and putting her technical toss juggling skills on display.

Second place went to frequent juniors competitor Patrick Fraser for a highly polished routine which largely consisted of complex patterns being made in the dark using glow balls.

Jack Denger, 2014 Juniors Champion

Jack Denger, 2014 Juniors Champion

Jack Denger took home the gold with a subtle self-parody routine where he came out dressed as an overly flashy magician producing his props in fancy ways and juggling two scarves. There was nothing cheesy about actual bulk of his routine, however, especially when he finished out his routine by doing seven club cascade and getting a clean finish on his first try.

Hosted by Kevin Axtell, the Individuals & Teams Championships saw five individuals competitors and three teams battle it out, in what had to be one of the most unusual competitions on an IJA stage in recent history.

Madison Wisconsin based juggling group, The Nine Hips took home bronze with a five person weaving passing act.

Duck and Cover placed second in a very casual routine which involved them passing six clubs and narrating their tricks to the audience as they gradually built up to stranger and more difficult moves, including multiplex passes and bouncing clubs off of the stage to each other.

 Institute of Jugglology, 2014 Teams Champions

Institute of Jugglology, 2014 Teams Champions

In their fourth, and possibly final competitive appearance, avant-garde juggling act, The Institute of Jugglology, won first place. The duo performed their signature mixed prop passing, along with a few new ideas, including passing props on stage filled with sand, which spilled out through the air when thrown, creating a powerful and artful display.

The winners of the Individuals competition could not have been more different or more atypical of an IJA stage competition.

Skilled toss juggler, Thom Wall, was awarded bronze for an act that featured no toss juggling whatsoever. Rather, Wall executed a skillful mouthstick routine, balancing bottles and knives in a variety of ways.

Diaboloist Yusaku Mochizuki placed second for a glow diabolo routine, which he also tap-danced the first part of.

Kota Hayashi, 2014 Individuals Champion

Kota Hayashi, 2014 Individuals Champion

The highly excitable Kota Hayashi landed first place with an act that consisted exclusively of three ball patterns. Hayashi took the stage dancing and juggling around to Offspring’s “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” and the Japanese boy band parody song “Yatta” while engaging in a number of complex three ball patterns thrown around his body in different ways. At one point, Hayashi picked up six balls, teasing the crowd with the possibility of doing some higher number patterns, before discarding them off to the side in favor of unleashing further dance moves on stage.

The Cascade of Stars show was MCed by The Hopeless Throwmantics (Thom Wall and Curtis Carlyle). This was a diverse culmination of a very diverse festival. In addition to the special guest toss jugglers, the show also featured hooping by Luna Brie Blakeman, rola bola by Jan Damm, poi by Cyrille Humen, contortion by Anna Roudenko, acrobatics by Kellin Quinn and Chauncey Kroner, and cigar boxes by Steven Ragatz.

Gena Shvartsman-Cristiani did a routine that combined her hat spinning, hoop manipulation, and club juggling abilities together in a delightful medley of skill.

Cirque du Soleil alumni Vladik Miagkostoupov tumbled out on stage for a highly acrobatic toss juggling routine of balls and clubs.

In perhaps one of the more legitimately scary and dangerous routines, Tuey Wilson did an act where he stood on a flaming ladder that was balanced on a flaming rope, while juggling torches.

Vladik Miagkostoupov in the Cascade of Stars.

Vladik Miagkostoupov in the Cascade of Stars

Headliner Patrick Elmnert performed a clubs and rings routine, which not only saw a great deal of innovative toss patterns, but interesting balances using rings as well.

In addition to the main shows and competitions, the festival also held its staple events.

Joggling took place just outside the main gym on the University track. The athletic event was well organized, moved at a fast pace, and saw multiple new records being set. Technical juggling powerhouse Delaney Bayles set world records in the Womens 100 meter 5 ball, 400 meter 5 ball and 100 meter 7 ball events. Gabrielle Foran also set world records in the Womens 800 meter 3 ball and 1600 meter 3 ball events. In Men’s, Nicholas Thomas set an IJA Championship record in the 400 meter 5 ball event.

Club Renegade took place off campus in downtown Lafayette at the Lafayette Theater. It was a very nice venue, with a large stage and food as well as a traditional bar. Despite the distance, this still served as a good venue for the three night event, though the collective performances were not among the strongest showings of an IJA Renegade stage in recent years.

There were some interesting ties for first place in the numbers competitions, which saw Brian Koenig and Vladik Miagkostoupov both getting 23 catches of 9 balls for first place. Then in Individual clubs, Vladik Miagkostoupov also ended up typing with Jack Denger when both competitors managed to keep seven clubs going for 41 catches.

Gena Shvartsman Cristiani performing in the Cascade of Stars

Gena Shvartsman Cristiani performing in the Cascade of Stars

For those more at home performing on the street than on stage, The Busking Competition once again provided a good outlet for those interesting in testing their competitive drive. Originally scheduled to take place outside in downtown Lafayette, the event was moved indoors at the last minute into the secondary gymnasium due to inclement weather. There were four competitors in the event, with two rounds of two running concurrently on opposite sides of the gym. It was far from the ideal environment, but a good move due to the raining weather, and still had a strong turnout. Boulder, Colorado native Bekah Smith won the competition with her interactive routine where she unicycled, balanced on a board, and juggled, among other feats.

Fire Nights took place Tuesday and Thursday at the event. This gave attendees the opportunity to use their fire props in an open and monitored environment with other fire artists.

The secondary gymnasium is where XJuggling occurred. The competition featured amazing technical and creative tricks being unloaded in back to back from a variety of different competitors. Seven ball overheads and five club three up 720s were some of the winning highlights. Due to competitive demand, teams and diabolo categories were added to the competition. In a surprise move, juggling historian Paul Bachman donated $100 to all of the first round competitors.

The gym was very active throughout the festival, with a very large number of jugglers staying up all night, especially on the final night as the event slowly drew to an end.

Next year, the IJA steps outside of the US and into Quebec City Canada for the 68th annual IJA festival.

Special thanks to Emory Kimbrough for the photos. Detailed championships and joggling results are also available.

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Nathan is a juggler from Southeast Michigan. He first learned to juggle in college, and has written for the website He previously served as Chairman of the IJA and also held various officer positions. When he is not frantically trying to learn new manipulation skills, he enjoys producing music, acting, and watching horror films.

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