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The Israeli Juggling Convention 2019 – Review

A small group us us went over to the 26th Israeli Juggling Convention.

Here are all of things that I saw and I did, mixed in you may find information about the actual convention.

Friday – Pre-Travel – Leg 1

I met with Ed at Kings Cross Station, and where else but platform 9 3/4 ?

Photo Credit:The British Transport Police

When I arrived, he was gamely taking photographs of tourists who would take turns to stand next to a bit of bare wall. I didn’t realise that the staff took down the luggage trolley handle for the night and then refitted it in the morning. We posed an ill-conceived and a slightly contrived photo of ourselves but in all of the excitement I found that Ed’s suitcase had suffered a mishap. The extendable handle for his large pull-along suitcase was badly bent, no doubt due to being mis-packed rather than my exuberant recreation of a scene from Harry Potter…

After performing some minor repairs, we agreed that if the suitcase survived the trip without sustaining further damage then I would owe Ed a new suitcase, if however multiple failings should occur then obviously it was a cheap suitcase and he should have bought a better one.

We negotiated the London underground despite the signage and scrolling information boards not listing our trains. Arriving late at Cameron’s we were quietly welcomed and sent to bed.

 

Saturday – Pre-Travel – Leg 2

Cameron made a token effort at packing his bags during the morning. Initially he took Anett’s advice to heart about needing only swimming kit and juggling props, but we eventually convinced him otherwise. After he had finished ‘packing’, Ed and I put all of his things inside his suitcases for him.

We negotiated the rakes laid out on the front drive and took our bags to the car which on first inspection did not look like it would take all the luggage and passengers. Cameron’s dad was not perturbed and so began the game of car Tetris, an audience was not required so we retired inside and had time to play some Tichu with Elliot before it was time to go.

We were ushered into the high priority queue for check in and bag drop at Luton airport. As it turned out, we would have been checked in sooner if we had stuck with the normal queue, but the thought was there. We met Greeny and Tasha whilst checking in (also on their way to Israel) which was a nice surprise. We lost a lot of time going through security (mostly due to my headphone leads being in close proximity to some batteries) so we didn’t have time for any real food. Four successive gate changes later we found ourselves queueing for a plane which hadn’t yet arrived… we should have got proper food. Wizard was played on the plane, its very similar to ‘Oh Hell’ but with the addition of Joker and Wizard cards, I score better at it than OH but that still only just got me into the top three players.

Ben Gurion Airport makes a strong first impression, very clean and marbled with some beautiful artefacts and mosaics on display on the walls as you make your way towards security. We met together on the other side and compared our experiences. The good news was our bags were right there waiting for us at the conveyor belt.

A short train ride later and we met with our wonderful host Guy, who brought us to his home to meet his wife and feast upon Matzo and Nutella. Fairly soon after we all crashed out and slept like the dead.

 

Sunday – Travel – Leg 3

I was awoken early by crashing thunder and hail as well as lightning and all the trimmings. I had not packed for this… In all the history of the IJC they have only had bad weather a couple of times, we were assured that this was exceptional weather for the time of year.

Guy et al. took the three of us to a local vintage shop which also served a very delicious meze breakfast. It was just like sitting in someone’s living room, but someone who was slightly obsessed with Moomins and Care Bears. Cameron had a cider to start the day, Ed delighted in the Gluten Free bread which was actually tasty, and I had the strongest carrot juice I’ve ever had in my life.

Afterwards, we three joined Guy and headed out through the storms on our way to the convention site. One of the window wipers gave up the fight early on and jettisoned itself from the vehicle but we persevered and the weather slowly improved.

Every camping convention begins in much the same way, mass unloading of cars and very heavily laden people trudging towards the campsite. Palm trees and a pretty river were a nice break from the norm. The camp site is spread over a series of small hills over the river from the car park and reaches down towards the juggling hall and outdoor covered area. There was a café set up in the campsite, with a large eating area covered by an awning, which served great vegan food and fresh fruit shakes throughout the convention. The café worked by a token system where tokens are bought from a little table and are then exchanged for meals at the serving area. They worked out around £5 for a meal and were definitely worth it.

A normal scene in the campsite. Photo Credit: Tal Gluck Photography

The campsite was crowded. Guy ropes overlapping was standard, but some tents were actually pitched over each other. The trick seems to be to get there early to get a good spot, don’t be surprised if you can’t find your tent when you get back though, it will now be hidden by an additional 5 tents that weren’t there before! Guy took us to his camping area and very kindly offered to put us up in his tent as he only really needed it during the day. Cameron and I gladly accepted but Ed wanted to try out his new blackout and eventually did get a spot not too far away and on level ground.

The main juggling space is an indoor basketball court sized hall which has banked seating on either side. The hall was pretty dusty and dirty. Pigeons were able to fly in and roost on the roof beams, and judging by some of the seats they took full advantage of that… Despite all this, the hall was rammed. There was a wonderful mixture of props on display and some very cool juggling happening. When Ed arrived, we got Guy involved in juggling a Scrambled V. It was very noisy in the hall, and we found it really difficult to discuss the pattern and get it working better so we abandoned it after a while with a promise to revisit it.

Our first workshop of the convention was Chopabout, with the intention of getting everyone up to speed with the manipulations and chops for later workshops in the week. It turned out to be a challenging workshop for some groups while others got the pattern working pretty well. After the workshop I joined two groups in succession who had lost a member and wanted a third person.

During this time as well, we saw a lot of friendly faces we knew: Luka, Lukas, Ofek, Vašek and Michael I knew from the Club Combat Finals in Berlin, and Paul and Scott.

Destroyed by mental fatigue (concentrating too long) and a lack of water / food, I eventually threw in the towel and went to try the café in the campsite. Each day served a lovely selection of cooked vegetables in various forms with fresh salads and olives and Matza bread. It was delicious and the happiest I had been in hours.

During food, Cameron and I were cajoled into performing during the Avi ‘best trick’ competition during the opening show. This stemmed from an earlier conversation we had with Guy which got wildly out of control. Without any preparation we did a bit of passing in the hall and decided to do the ‘Jon Peat Whammy’ trick (named by none other than Lewis Kennedy) for our first trick, if by some miracle we made it through to the second round we would do the 6 club backcrosses on ultimates with the other person throwing them under the legs.

 

Opening Show and Avi ‘Best Trick’ Competition

The show was held in another covered outdoor area accessed through the traders’ area from the main hall. With sloped grassy areas it formed a bit of an amphitheatre setting. It was crowded when we got there and turning into a quite a cool and breezy night. We didn’t get a good view of the show as we were waiting by the wings and needed to get up to perform our trick at seemingly short notice.

There were a number of official judges watching the tricks who would decide which performers would make it through to the next round. The ‘three attempts and you’re off’ rule was cruelly enforced by Guy in his role as compere.

Highlights included Kellin Quin trying an impressive 5 club multiplex hitting trick, Luka going for a 3 up out of 5 in backcrosses, Raul Canaz did the mouthstick balloon pop wine glass catch, the antipodist Val Jauregui did an awesome through the legs trick, there was a  very fast 3 ball box behind the neck and the ‘5 diabolo guy’ from the hall (Pen Zen) did four around the leg. Cameron and I astounded ourselves by nailing the JPW on the first attempt and were doubly astounded to make it through the second round (the toffee bribe clearly worked its magic…).

We missed a lot of the actual acts for the show as we didn’t have a good view but we did see a lot of the mass passing act which was really cool, a very large LED / glow act, and I enjoyed the hat juggler.

LED Angel Wings from the Opening Show. Photo Credit: Tal Gluck Photography

We kept warm and busy by trying the ‘club into the hold in the railing game’. It attracted a few other players and was most enjoyable. Raul did a two ball headbounce with a ball spin in one hand and Greeny did a cool front roll with a club balance held on his head by his foot (yes, it does look weird when you write it down…). We were trying to keep warm so went up on stage with our coats on and Cameron wearing my backpack, the plan was that we would fail on the first attempt and then strip down a few layers before trying the trick for real as a bit of a crowd please/to big up the trick. As it happened, we got a fluky good run on the first attempt, which we took. It made us look a bit nonchalant which didn’t work in our favour when the voting took place, the trick looked too easy and we really didn’t look like we were taking it seriously.

The voting was really harsh. In BYJOTY style, the competitors who made it to the second round had to stand on stage with a box while the audience poured forth and dropped voting slips into their favourite boxes. Raul and Val did very well while we had a nice chat with Greeny and Tashsa. Cameron and I entertained the kids most, from what I could tell from our voters. We were very happy but most happy to be able to go back into the hall and the warmth.

Later that night / early morning after a good juggling session in the hall, we found it was far too noisy in the campsite to go to bed. Lukas, Ed, Cameron and I were playing Tichu on the outdoor stage and trying to keep warm when a rooster started crowing. Its crow was greeted by several remarks along the lines of ‘no way is it dawn’, ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ and ‘someone shoot that bird’. At 500 points we ended the game due to the cold and Edj was victorious. We struggled slightly to find the tent on the first night as many others had sprung up along the route so we diverted through other campers’ kitchen areas. The campsite was still very noisy with people chatting (and people doing werewolf impressions, really?!?) but we eventually got to sleep. I think it would have been harder to drop off if I understood Hebrew.

 

Monday

I was brought very instantly and sharply awake to the sound of bi-planes strafing the campsite. I leapt outside but could see no sign of any aircraft, moreover there were no running or screaming people. I questioned my sanity for a short while and with the adrenaline coursing through my bloodstream there was no way I could get back to sleep, so I took a morning walk to explore the national park.

A short path led from the campsite down a slope and towards the ever 28°C pools. There were three large pools, some smaller pools for kids, and a shallow river section for paddling. Already at this time there were quite a few jugglers and locals taking a morning swim. The lakes were ringed with open green space peppered with palm trees. I found a lot of hidden toilet and shower blocks amongst the trees as well as a mini lothlórien.

Dirty Dancing with added waterfall. Photo Credit: Tal Gluck Photography

After breakfast I found Cameron in the hall and we started the day with my patented warm up and with Cameron’s Zap patterns warm up which I really enjoyed.

I persuaded Cameron to take part in the Fight Night Qualifications. There were a lot of people taking part and the would-be qualifiers were split into three groups, who would then play everyone in their own group, with the top players from each group making it through to the tournament. We were slightly baffled by how this would work but went along with it… Our group became the smiley face group and I delighted in asking a few people if they had a smiley face before fighting them.

It was a strong field, our group felt particularly harsh. The worst thing was that it was the first to five points, not the best of five. This was awful if you played an inexperienced player and beat them 3-0 as you then had to play two more points on top to finish it. It was also hard work playing that many matches all to 5 points. We were a bit tight for space but we kept cycling through the matches and they progressed pretty efficiently. Lukas was unlucky to be hit in the same eye twice in a row (no lasting damage). I won just over half of my matches but clearly fell short of qualifying in my group. Cameron and Greeny both qualified ahead of me.

Afterwards, we collected Ed and went up to the pools for some swimming. It was glorious in the water and we had a really nice refreshing time. There were a lot of fish in the water which liked to nibble your toes, a very unpleasant experience in my view; I do not enjoy providing sustenance for aquatic life. Ed and I performed the fish dance although Ed screamed more frequently and more loudly than I. The pools were deceptively long and I was very grateful for the grab bars which had been positioned around the outside edge of the pool (keep kicking your feet though or you become fish food!).

We gave Ed’s Manipulator Theory Workshop. It was quite an important one for any passers at the event as it explains how to read the notation, and once you can do that any pattern becomes possible (at least to understand what is meant to happen…). It was quite poorly attended but we did manage to get two groups working through some patterns and understanding the notation. Successful workshop, more people please.

Looking around the hall again it was awesome to see such cool tricks and patterns taking place. There was a football juggler doing some wonderful two ball kickups with knee bounces and Kellin Quin was trying a ridiculous finish from runs of 7 clubs.

A small party of us went for food (again delicious) before I made my way back to the main hall with Sophia to watch The Games.

 

The Games

Guy was once again resplendent in his ringmaster outfit and was merrily hosting the games and putting everyone through their paces. The hall was absolutely crammed full of people, all the seats were full (some thanks to the pigeons) so we squeezed into a gap behind one of the basket ball backboards. It was a pretty terrible view but Sophia only came for the noise. I couldn’t believe the turnout. The Games are normally quite a popular feature at a convention, but everyone was going bonkers for it, I don’t think I have ever seen such an enthusiastic crowd.

The long distance passing took in pretty much the length of the whole hall. There was a lovely game where two jugglers must juggle 3 balls whilst in a loving embrace. I squeezed through the crowd to take part in the 5 ball endurance, made it to maybe the final 15 but dropped at 5 rounds of 744. The 5 up pirouette left three standing and it was eventually won by the 5 diabolo guy, five props seemed to be the standard for him.

The highlight for many was the Hula Hoop Gladiators. The floor was packed, hard to guess how many took part but I’m tempted to say at least 80. Due to the cramped space there was a lot of early game aggression. As the game went on it became apparent that one side of the hall was increasingly rooting for one little boy on their side of the court who was systematically moving from person to person and taking them out. His following grew and grew until it felt like the entire crowd was screaming for him, each time he took someone out everyone went mental. He made it right to the end and engaged the final remaining hooper. There was a long battle before he knocked their hoop flying as well. The crowd went bananas! Many ran onto the court and raised up the victor for a victory lap. It was so infectious!

Diabolo in a box doesn’t normally get me going but I was greatly amused by this one when the person holding the box ran wildly around the court being following by a blazing trail of diabolos. Very visual and funny. The club balance went on for a very long time and I felt very sorry for all of the vertebrae in the room. There followed all of the usual requests such as sit down, stand up (Scott had to stop his 3 club cascade for this and resume) and this was followed by some very enticing dancing by everyone. Slightly less enticing was the ‘take off your trousers’ section which was followed by sock, trousers back on and t-shirt off. I was amused by the chap who removed his t-shirt by climbing down out of it rather than taking it off over the balance like normal. The club balance took ages and it took a while afterwards for everyone to find all their clothes.

When Club Balance Endurance is not hard enough… Photo Credit: Tal Gluck Photography

The 7 ball endurance quickly got down to the final two: Vašek and Luka. Luka won a set of five juggling balls which doesn’t really work as positive reinforcement, surely nine balls would have been a more suitable prize…?

There were many more games and challenges including an entertaining unicycle gladiators game before the games were brought to a close with the classic ‘big toss up’. An excellent games, I wish we had arrived earlier and bagsied some better seats, the atmosphere was electric.

Cameron and I played with bouncing clubs off some mats outside and came up with some pretty stupid tricks before we found Ed and started prepping for our Champi workshop. Champi is a chopped ambidextrous manipulator pattern (no.1), is based on Pass Pass Self and has a very short period. It is a great pattern, as once you can run it, it has a lot of time and you can start adding silly tricks (video coming soon!). A lot of people came along and by the end we had several groups who were making couple of rounds.

Still searching for a good area to play games (not really catered for at the event) we took over the registration desk for our late night Tichu session. We were occasionally asked questions in Hebrew but it quickly became apparent that not only did we not speak the language but we also didn’t know the answers to the questions most of the time. We still couldn’t spot the rooster…

 

Tuesday

Instead of being woken by dive bombing planes, I awoke to what sounded like the keystone cops rampaging through the campsite. Again, after expelling myself out of the tent and into the open air I could see no sign of this epic and hilarious police chase. There were no roads in sight from where I was in the campsite but I assume the sound must have carried (exceptionally well) on the crisp morning air. It was 8am and once again there was no way I was getting back to sleep so I walked through the park for my morning swim and shower. I joined Paul for breakfast and chatted with James (who had come especially from San Francisco as there were passing workshops advertised at the convention) and we were joined by Ed and Cameron. It was a lovely spot in the morning sun to lounge so we watched Cameron and James having a game of chess. I was secretly delighted that Cameron made a lot of the moves that I was thinking of. My chess confidence was shattered a couple of years ago when Brook beat me easily in sub 10 moves, two games in a row. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but my body has been rejecting chess ever since. Ed was overcome with the scenery and went for a walk in the park.

Back in the hall we once again saw the phenomenon which is 3 ball gladiators. There seems to be 3 ball gladiators taking place 24/7, often with multiple groups playing in the same hall. You never really see it played at conventions but it seems to be a big thing in Israel. We noticed as well that the demographic in Israel is very different than in the UK. There were far more young jugglers at the convention and also children. In the UK it feels like the children at conventions are there accompanying their juggling parents rather than there to juggle and play themselves. This was quite an eye opener and paired with the relentless culture of 3 ball gladiators I think that Israel is going to be churning out some very strong jugglers for a lot of years to come. The future of juggling in Israel looks very bright indeed.

Ed returned from his rove around the park and together with Cameron we learned the 567 takeout pattern. It was excellent fun as long as you remembered which end of the pattern had the straight and crossing ends for the zaps.

We retired for lunch and I challenged Cameron to another game of chess. Towards the end Cameron lost sight of one of my pawns which allowed me a new queen. He should have won it but I was thrilled to beat him. Ofek then stepped up to play him and together they drew quite a crowd. This was partly due to Ofek describing every single possible move and which one Cameron would make and the counter that Ofek would have to play. Cameron found this an especially useful trait for an opponent.

Our next workshop was for the pattern 3V which is a five-person manipulator pattern based on Scrambled V. I had to bail on the workshop towards the end as I was starting to feel so tired and headachy. Afterwards, Rachel, Cameron, Lukas and I went for an ice cream while Ed went for an afternoon swim. Another popular activity at the IJC is the DapoStar (spinning rags) and there was an ever-increasing number of people doing them. While we waited for Ed we played with one on the traders’ stall and it was actually pretty good fun, we were all amused by it and there were some very pretty designs so I bought one as a holiday present to myself. After some trial and error we all found a nice windy spot to sit and play a card game of Lukas’s which revolves around working out the values of your hidden cards and getting rid of them. It was good fun but very hard as you had to remember and keep track of multiple cards (not my strong suit, weak pun there…).

Ed pointed out that the Hebrew translation for ‘chokepoint’ is ‘a really nice place to stand and talk to people’. Many times, the traffic coming in and out of the hall was blocked completely by people just stopping dead in their tracks to have chat. Very weird.

Another weirdness was that it appeared people just couldn’t ‘see’ passing patterns. Many times during the event we had people walk straight through our passing patterns, completely oblivious to the fact. It was quite a phenomenon which I have not witnessed so strongly anywhere else before. I wondered if it was due to so few conventions happening in Israel per year that people are just not used to seeing people setting up passing patterns, the younger demographic or just the space constraints of the hall. Maybe a combination of them all.

Greeny and Tasha went to the Parade. Photo Credit: Tal Gluck Photography

We returned to the hall with Ed and banged out some Dolby 5.1 and 7.1 in preparation for the next workshop which would be on Dolby 5.1. It was another well attended workshop and a lot of people struggled with the correct way to receive the pop but overall it went well and think the majority of groups got somewhere with it.

 

Fight Night

I had indeed not managed to qualify but both Greeny and Cameron made it through, so I got myself a good seat with Paul and Scott and settled down for a good show.

Michael and Vašek were the first to fight, both representing Czechia. Both players went in hard and it was a very strong first match, it got to 4-all before we had four match points and Vašek finally took the match. It set a strong standard for the other fighters to follow.

Elad and Cameron were next to fight and someone remarked near me that ‘Cameron is the funniest combat player I’ve ever seen!’ It was certainly an entertaining match, which Cameron took 5-4 after another four match points.

Yaron and Itamar fought next with Itamar throwing some of the most insane high throws I have ever seen in a combat match, it was awesome. At 4-0 to Itamar, Yaron started his comeback and after some amazing points Yaron took the match 5-4.

Greeny took on Liri and both fought exceptionally well, some very long points and amazing saves. Grenny did a particularly great save which the crowd went nuts for, by striking a club back into the air during close quarters fighting. Liri had the edge though and eventually took the match 5-0.

Vašek and Cameron matched up and had some great points although some were pretty scrappy and the ref (Maarten Wils) had to give to give a warning about stealing clubs. Cameron took it 5-4 and made it through to the final.

Yaron and Liri had an epic match as they both had pretty similar fighting styles. Many clubs were swapped and I think I witnessed the longest point ever seen on a fight night, each point was hard fought with multiple encounters. Liri finally took the match 5-4 but it was a very impressive spectacle.

You know it’s a hard hit when your oponent is then attached to your club! Photo Credit: Tal Gluck Photography

There was a short break to give the competitors time to cool down and get some energy back before the third place playoffs, so the audience took part in a game of ‘everyone stand up, then sit down if…’ This eventually left Guy standing on his own as the only person who attended every single IJC. [Scott was meant to be there with Guy at the end but due to a mathematical error, he sat down prematurely. -ed]

The third place match was another exciting round with Yaron and Vašek facing off. Initially Yaron had the upper hand but Vašek rallied and brought on a strong comeback (and nearly brought down the backdrop) to take the match 5-4.

It was announced that the final match would be played to 7 points.

Cameron and Liri both played very well, most points had three or four tussles before one would manage to take out the other. Cameron was in lead at 5-4. In the end, Liri took the crown with a 7-5 finish and that was the end of the tournament.

It was a brilliant tournament to watch. If I had qualified I do not think I would have lasted long, the standard was very high. It was great that there was such a good crowd to watch it (500 odd) and everyone was well into it. I was disappointed with the quality of starts, that area of the game needs some serious improvement as remarked by Cameron.

Ed and I passed some 7 club three count with silly tricks and some 8 club Pass Pass Self before Cameron joined us for some more 756 about. After a while it got quite scrappy and untidy, so we snuck off to a quiet corner to play Oh Hell.

Every now and then someone walking past would enquire what the game was, once it was explained it piqued their interest and they joined the table until we had a solid 8 players and a couple watching, very bizarre. It was quite a cold night so after the game we said our goodbyes, flashed a v sign at the rooster’s tree and went to bed.

 

Wednesday

I was not woken up by any disturbing sounds but was still a bit upset to still be waking up naturally around 8am after so many late nights. I went for my morning swim and on my way back through the park I nearly dived to the ground when I heard the bi-planes coming back. It was actually a pair of microlites flying low over the park, the pilots (obviously interested to see all the tents etc) did a couple of passes before flying on.

I joined Scott and Cameron for breakfast and had a really nice chat with Scott about the convention. We discussed how, due to there only being one (sometimes as many as two) conventions a year in Israel, everyone is super keen to learn and get involved with everything. I think it is a masterful idea to spend a portion of the convention’s budget in order to bring expert workshop leaders to pass on their knowledge to the community. In that respect it felt far better organised than many other conventions.

I tried a shake from the café and regretted not having tried one earlier. Made fresh in front of you, tasted awesome, here started a healthy obsession.

Scott and Cameron left and I was copying up my notes when Ed arrived. He was not terribly chatty and made moves to curl up and die at the breakfast table, I got the impression he would rather be asleep but his blackout tent (very effective!) was too hot (unwelcome side effect). I encouraged him to take a mattress from Guy’s tent and sleep under their awning as it would be quieter. I didn’t see Ed again for quite some time.

I had a good browse of the workshop boards and saw a huge variety of workshops in just about everything from beginners’ to advanced. I hung around for a bit watching the morning yoga / dance workshop before going along to Ilya Polyakov’s workshop ‘The Science of Learning to Juggle’.

It was a very interesting and thought-provoking workshop. It covered a lot of ideas about learning which I had heard before, but had combined all of them into an effective strategy for getting good at a particular skill. One of the core messages was around making mistakes: a good strategy is to make the mistake again deliberately as this will give you knowledge about how that mistake happened in the first place. I really enjoyed the workshop and by using the tools that Ilya proposed I improved doing a club balance on the foot and moreover, I did not get bored doing a foot balance for 30 minutes straight.

After the workshop I went into the main hall and saw that Daniela Paličková was giving her ‘Seb’s Mess’ workshop. I had planned to watch the workshop from afar as I have always liked the look of Seb’s mess but never learnt it and this workshop was for perfecting the trick and trying variations. I saw that many people who had gone to the workshop could not do the pattern and so I quickly grabbed my clubs and ran over. Daniela broke the moves of the trick down brilliantly and was patient with everyone trying the trick for the first time. I hovered a short distance away and worked on the base pattern for the whole workshop and by the end I had achieved some good runs, everyone else was trying the crazy variations with Daniela but I was quite content just to get the base pattern down. I thanked her very much for teaching me the pattern and came away very pleased, I just need to iron out the crinkles and make it smoother.

It wasn’t very clearly advertised where or when the buses for the Gala Show would be leaving from. We asked around a bit and eventually got answers which were vaguely consistent. We headed out along the service road which ran around the edge of the park and eventually came out at the park entrance where there was a poor imitation of a queue for the buses. As we drove out of the park we saw a load of kangaroos in what appeared to be a petting zoo, and also what looked like a place where you could hire off roading golf buggies to whizz around the countryside in, had no idea they were there.

We drove through several small towns to arrive at the show venue where we disembarked and stood around outside waiting for the first showing to finish. I found out on the plane on the way to Israel that the evening show has a formal dress reception beforehand where drinks are provided to anyone dressed appropriately (thanks, Ed). Greeny and Tasha looked particularly showstopping in their attire. After Cameron managed to blag his way into the venue, I gave it a shot, impressed the doorman with my very flowery t-shirt, and joined the crush inside.

It was far too crowded in the reception, so I went through into the theatre and found my seat. Our tickets all had numbered seats and we couldn’t tell if we had to follow the seating plan or if it was just something that the venue did, it was all very strange. The theatre was very large and had really comfy seats, I was most content. There was quite a lot of setting up going on the stage with some very interesting apparatus linked by a slackrope. It would have been a nice surprise to have had the curtain drawn, hiding it all from view, and then to draw back the curtain and reveal it in all its glory. I suspect there must have been an operational reason for this although I could not see it. A lot of chair bingo took place with people sitting in other seats and having to move but eventually the theatre space was filled with happy and (for the most part) smartly dressed jugglers. There were a couple of half-hearted Mexican waves and pirouettes as well as some anti-clapping, the usual fare.

 

The Gala Show

A lady took to the stage and started speaking to the audience in Hebrew. We assumed that she was giving thank yous as the audience would occasionally applaud her. I couldn’t tell if she was the compere as she was just reading from a list, a long list, a very long list. I kept thinking it was over and it was the final applause but then she would begin speaking again. I looked along our row and saw two English, a German, a Russian and a Czech all looking very

Guillermo Alejandro Leon De Keijzer. Photo Credit: IJC Website

bemused. It was confirmed to be the thank yous when a chap further down our row and Dekel both got very enthusiastic applause and cheering.

 

Guillermo Alejandro Leon De Keijzer arrived on the stage and immediately I felt a lot more at ease. He was very funny, gave a fantastic anti-announcement regarding use of mobile phones and using flash photography. He introduced each act with a short (and very funny) slideshow giving a little bit of their history, it was hilarious.

 

 

 

 

Raul Cañaz. Photo Credit: IJC Website

Raul Cañaz performed some awesome tricks while on the slackrope which had me in mind of those traffic light juggling routines from Mexico which you see circulating online. He had a bit of a bad fall near the beginning which shook a ball and a club loose from his apparatus but after that things ran a lot better. Lots of ball spinning tricks including a two stack (nice confetti!) and a mouthstick with two balls spin. I liked the way he had to walk along the wire to get his props each time, nice suspense builder. I did think that his ring balance was going to be a Salerno ring and was slightly sad when it wasn’t. An exciting performance, it got a scattered standing ovation.

 

Guillermo brought his ukulele on stage and sang us a little song about bamba (peanut butter flavoured wotsits effectively, pretty tasty and moreish), I don’t normally enjoy the ‘feeding the audience’ section (barring Rosie’s feeding of the ducks skit at BJC that time) but I genuinely did enjoy it. Great bit of misdirection which was perfectly highlighted.

 

 

Lucas Zileri. Photo Credit: IJC Website

Lucas Zileri brought his ping pong balls and bats onstage and did a wonderful percussion juggling routine with different sized balls to create different sounds. It was very good, awesome body moves and combinations with the balls and bats and nice rhythms. Very enjoyable routine.

I LOVE Guillermo’s ‘Tadaa’ jacket, inspired!

 

 

Mounâ Nemri. Photo Credit: IJC Website

 

Mounâ Nemri did a brilliant and very awkward hooping routine to ‘Eye of the Tiger’. It was excruciatingly brilliant and very funny. Guillermo stepped in to help her with the music (and check her Tinder messages), once the new music began, Mounâ did an awesome hoop routine packed full of interesting manipulations, it was very well timed with the music. Great routine, loved it!

 

 

Ezra Weill. Photo Credit: IJC Website

 

 

Ezra Weill performed an aerial rope routine which he combined with hat juggling. I loved his character interactions with the rope, it was very clever and just so well done. He did get savaged by the rope at one point.  It was filled with lovely tricks and was very smoothly choreographed. Wonderful routine.

 

 

 

 

Kellin Quin. Photo Credit: IJC Website

 

 

Kellin Quin showed us some of his trademark club juggling to some very piercing jazz music. Outstanding tricks with lots of hits / balances and manipulations. There was a killer five club section and one club section before he brought a little friend out on stage. Huge movements around the stage hitting and double hitting clubs back into his patterns, very cool stuff. He did the seven club finish that we saw him doing in the hall. He earned a larger standing ovation…

 

 

 

Pen Zen. Photo Credit: IJC Website

 

Closing the show was Pen Zen (AKA 5 diabolo guy) all the way from Taiwan where he attended a diabolo school. He must have done extra classes. This was one of those diabolo routines that raised the bar for me and has replaced Ryo Yabe’s and William Wei-Lang Lin’s routines in my mind as the most outstanding diabolo routine I have ever seen. It was a real joy to watch. I think that the 5 diabolo section should have had some dramatic music playing in the background or something as the audience couldn’t keep quiet and it made it feel more like a renegade. It was so polished, was smoothly choreographed to the music with no drops. A perfect end to the show, huge standing ovation.

 

 

 

All the acts were brought on stage for the final bows, it was obviously well rehearsed and the line up dance was great, Guillermo remembered everyone’s names, there were bubble machines, it was awesome. That was a very strong show, I enjoyed it immensely.

Then it was the interval…

It was really nice to see the acts from the first half hung around on stage and chatted to all the kids who came up to them, that was a really nice touch and very inspiring for the younger generation of jugglers. There was a real party atmosphere in the venue.

We were a little confused as we hadn’t read the booklet or been on the website but we didn’t realise that the second half of the show would be a different show.

 

The Piti Peta Hofen Show

The Piti Peta Hofen Show was full of conflict, magic and extreme poetry.

It was VERY Piti Peta Hofen.

3 jugglers, Lucas Araujo Castello Branco, Johannes Leo Bauhofer and Andres Torréz Diaz, performed a blazing spectacle of awesome juggling and ridiculous scenarios and interactions. The comedy was relentless and right up my street, the juggling was brilliant, it was so, so clever and well done.

I was actually in awe, even Ed was enthusiastic about them.

It got a prolonged and complete standing ovation. It was a wonderful way to end the Gala Show.

It was very Piti Peta Hofen… Photo Credit: IJC Website

There was some weirdness with the buses on the way back but we did eventually make it back to the venue.

Lukas wanted us to try out his new Ambled pattern which he had made up. It was very fun to do and we made quick progress with it, it had a really nice chop in it. We managed to get two rounds on video. Afterwards I did Scrambled V with Rachel and Sophia which was really good fun. We all had a real good laugh and as a bonus did manage to get the pattern running.

I realised at this point that I had mislaid my mobile phone. I searched through all of my bags without success. I had it when we went for the show buses, so I retraced my steps with my torch, retraced the route back through the park which we took, searched the hall, my bags again. Damn.

We had moved out of Guy’s tent earlier in the day so that he could pack it up, so we made alternative sleeping arrangements.

 

Thursday

I was woken up by the floor cleaning machine which was working its way through the gym. I wondered if this was just a last day thing or if the hall had been periodically cleaned during the week. If it was then there was a lot of dust coming in from somewhere.

I went around the venue looking for my phone again and checking the lost property boxes / talking to official people, no luck.

I got all my stuff packed up as we had a slightly woolly transport arrangement to get us back to the airport. I had breakfast with Rachel and had a good old natter. I was about to wake Ed and Cameron as it was getting close to ‘if you haven’t heard from me by this time, be ready to leave at a moment’s notice’ o’clock. A plan materialised and we were stood down from immediate action with a lift to the airport promised after the closing show.

We idled away the morning with some more packing and playing of Oh Hell.

 

The Closing Show

Maarten Wils hosted the show and got some applause for speaking a little Hebrew. We did some clapping practise but it was all a bit rambly and I feel the energy was dissipating somewhat. The audience throughout the show displayed a lot of poor show etiquette. People talked during the acts, stood in front of seated rows and even had big ‘see you next year’ goodbyes and hugs right in front of people sitting and watching the show.

The first act was Val Jauregui who performed antipodism with large balls. Lots of great tricks, very visual with some lovely wavy leg twirls. Lots of foot catches and passes (what you would expect from an antipodist) finish with a really nice five ball cascade. Wonderful bow.

Maarten did a little trick.

Liza Van Brakel performed a stunning club juggling routine. She performed loads of really smooth three club tricks with lots of kicks and rolls (and rolling kicks!) mixed with tumbling. She used the entire stage and the pace just built and built and built. Really enjoyed it. Pretty good bow.

There was an announcement. It can’t have been important as it was not relayed in English. The Security people got involved / got told off for walking across the stage, no idea.

Danielle Saulnier performed a hand balancing routine. The seating and the stage were at floor level and her routine prompted a mass migration of people to watch from the tiered seating at the sides. I missed most of her act as I didn’t want to lose my seat, but I had seen her practising in the hall and she was very good. She seemed to have a good stage character and got a lot of applause from the first couple of rows and those stood at the sides. I wanted to see more.

The facial expressions of the audience say it all. Photo Credit: Tal Gluck Photography

Ayala Eshkoli performed a bouncy and high energy ball juggling routine. There were some good body move combinations and nice tricks, but it was slightly lacking in audience interaction and applause points. It was a nice routine, just a bit more audience involvement would have improved it. Should practise the bow.

Sophia Oltmanns and Juliano performed a really lovely routine which was a mixture of live music and club juggling. Juliano Abramovay played guitar and Sophia responded with her juggling. There were some really well-done sections with manipulations going on around the musician / juggler and guitar. It was very clean and cleverly put together. I really enjoyed the sections where they played together, in fact the whole routine felt like they were playing together. I often see music and juggling combined but never quite so fully as this. It got a slightly premature mini standing ovation before the actual end of the routine but got a very lively one at the end. Brilliant performance, very good bows.

Norman Harbi (AKA the really good football juggler from the hall) performed a funny and technically brilliant football routine, seriously awesome skills. Again, we missed quite a lot of the floor level stuff which was a real shame. It had audience interaction, amazing skills and high energy. Really liked it and a good way to close the show.

There was then an announcement which should have been held until the end of the show as it killed the atmosphere entirely and many people got up and left / started to leave. All the acts were brought back out and they did a very good rehearsed final bow, it just felt a bit off as half the audience had left or was in the process of leaving and a lot of the energy had been lost.

It was an excellent closing show, very high standard indeed and not a bad act in it. Fantastic show to end on.

 

Return Journey – Leg 1 (with bonus leg shenanigans)

We met Inbal at her car and were distressed to see it already had quite a lot of stuff in it. We played yet another game of car Tetris and we managed to prove Ofek right when he said, ‘In my experience things just tend to fit in cars…”. It was at this moment when the bombshell was dropped that Norman from the closing show would also be joining us. Luckily he had deflated his footballs but it was still an amazing feat that we all got in. So began a very cramped and hot car ride. There were a lot of snacks and hilarity, especially looking at the faces of people driving past our car. Norman’s leg began to cramp up so in order to ease his discomfort he wound down the back window and was able to stick it up out of the window vertically, just like a flagpole. We manoeuvred his other leg through a rolled mat which had been my porthole that I used to look out of the front window. The disbelieving looks of passers-by incr2`1eased somewhat, some even adjusting their own speed to match ours in order to fully appreciate our predicament. I was delighted when we reached Inbal’s mum’s house, as muscles I didn’t know I had were screaming in agony.

We were treated to some cold water and a delicious banana chocolate cake which was exactly what we needed after such a memorable journey. We set off with less luggage and a tenfold increase in comfort. Inbal and Norman switched to French, and we English were all lulled off to sleep. We all woke up on the approach to Ben Gurion Airport. It was quite unsettling to see that the airport perimeter security did not seem to share a common uniform, just looked like a load of people hanging around the airport with big guns… We rolled up and extracted all of our luggage and said our farewells. We were most grateful for our ride to the airport, it was really kind of Inbal to take us all and also Inbal’s mum for her wonderful hospitality.

It took a very long time to get through security, far worse than getting into the country, I don’t think I have ever had a bag so thoroughly swabbed. The departure terminal building was also nowhere near as nice as the way in, although that might just have been our building as we were flying cheapoairlines.com.

We looked at the food options in the terminal and were left wanting, we played Oh Hell during which Ed monitored a man being harangued. There was another mildly amusing gate change which we think was orchestrated to fill an additional stairwell.

The plane journey was fun because we played Wizard, but also not fun as we had to keep suspending the game due to bad turbulence. Ed bought me a birthday muffin which was actually very delicious and I dozed in and out of sleep.

Security at Manchester Airport was a total breeze at 1am. I was very upset when my suitcase arrived on the belt as it was missing a wheel, it had been snapped off. I was at a loss as to how this could have happened as surely baggage handlers have more experience than anyone alive when it comes to handling baggage. I love the fact that airlines are completely un-responsible when it comes to damaged luggage.

Our taxi driver turned out to not really know where he was going and took us the scenic overcharging route, he did manage to remove our bags from the boot without breaking them. I wonder if he had, would he have been responsible for the damage…?

We snuck into Jo’s house and went our separate ways to our beds which Jo had kindly made for us. I had a wonderful night’s sleep.

 

Friday – Return Journey Leg 2 (no amusing leg incidents)

I awoke before Ed and Cameron and found my letter from Jenni which had my train ticket in it (long and boring story), so I had breakfast and quietly left the house. Took the tram into central Manchester with all the commuters and got to Manchester Piccadilly. I really felt for the girl who dropped her phone on the platform, and it bounced onto the tracks. Obviously, she missed her train and was in some distress. The staff were great! They looked after her and a lot of walkie talkie calls occurred. It became apparent that they were waiting for a highly specialist phone recovery tool to arrive in order to extract it from the tracks. I was disappointed when it was just a standard plastic litter grabber, although it did have soft tip grips. I guess British Rail still have some respect for people’s belongings, unlike those fezzle snezzles at the airport, rant rant rant…

I had an uneventful train journey to Leeds and the taxi ride home was mundane. Things got exciting again when I got home and realised that I had not packed a front door key. I was overjoyed that Cameron had kindly lent me his drugs phone and I was able to find Jenni’s work number on the tinterweb and persuade her to come home and let me in. Luckily it wasn’t raining so I sat in the sun and read my book until Jenni rescued me from my foolishness.

I later received word that Ed’s suitcase had suffered multi point structure failure so I was let off the hook. It just goes to show that you can buy a cheap suitcase and not have it survive a trip or buy a more expensive one and… not have it survive the trip.

 

Convention Round-Up – The Good the Bad and the Ugly.

I did have a brilliant time at the Israeli Juggling Convention! The National Park is a place of natural beauty and the opportunity to swim daily amidst such pretty surroundings was very special. The weather was lovely for the most part. The food at the café was consistently tasty and fresh and not overpriced. The convention had one of the best workshop boards I have seen, a very varied timetable with good quality teachers. The shows were excellent, really top notch, and the games were quite a spectacle. Everyone was super friendly and keen to learn new things and there was a real buzz throughout the whole event.

But…

I would have really appreciated some segregated camping. Having an area for ‘people who want to go to bed early and wake up early’ and an area for ‘people who want to be noisy all night and wake up late’ would be really great. Space is at a premium at the convention as a whole so I do not know if it would be possible to implement it.

There are not enough toilets at the gym for everyone. There was always a queue in the men’s and regular toilet paper shortages. It would ease the pressure if more toilets could be provided at the venue. An extra toilet block was hired for the campsite which I understood to be a new thing this year, it looked very popular when I walked past it early one morning and if it is not too greater a cost then it would be worth considering another.

It would be nice if the gym floor could be cleaned periodically (and perhaps the seats before the event) just to make it as nice as possible.

A lot of these are just the constraints of the venue and are no reflection on the crew running the convention! It is just a very popular event and too many people want to go to it (and rightly so!). The venue can’t change, it is just too good a location for the event, but perhaps more facilities could be provided to ease the pressure.

Additionally, the following things should be banned from the convention: microlites, buggies, quarry machinery and grass cutters / strimmers.

 

I want to thank the organisers for putting on such a great convention! Thank you Guy for looking after our welfare during the event and for putting a roof over our heads on more than one occasion!

I had an awesome time at the convention. I would strongly recommend you go. Take swimming stuff and earplugs and if you can get it through security, bring a slingshot to deal with that rooster once and for all!

Cheers, Jon

Photo Credits: I am indebted to Tal Gluck and also the IJC who provided the majority of the photos for the review. I did take my own but obviously they were on my phone…

Jon Peat

I am Jon Peat.

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