In the past, I’ve written about the Salerno Ring, the famous invention of the gentleman juggler Salerno. While it’s an amazing invention and prop, it was the lone trick that Salerno performed that didn’t fit in with the general idea of the gentleman juggler; only using normal items found in a parlor or a gentleman’s home.
Kara, Salerno’s rival, likewise had one trick that didn’t fit into the gentleman juggler paradigm. It was similar to the Salerno Ring, as it was balanced on the head and involved tossing balls into or through the prop. This prop was known as the Kara Box.
As you can see in the above photos, the Kara Box consisted of a rack of inclined ramps. Balls were tossed into the top and rolled down the ramps until reaching the bottom and falling back down for the juggler to catch. It is not known if Kara inspired Salerno or the other way around, but the similarities are too close to be a coincidence.
Like the Salerno Ring, the Kara Box was copied by other jugglers. Below is a photo from 1895, showing Resa using a Kara Box. This was while Kara was still at the height of his career.
Kara retired in 1927. In the 1930s and early 1940s, the Kara Box was performed by Felix Adanos. Below you can see a never before published photo of Adanos using a Kara Box as well as an illustration of him performing it from one of Adanos’ posters.
After Adanos’ use of the Kara Box, the following illustration by Joe Marsh (from the November 1947 issue of the Jugglers’ Bulletin) is the next reference I’ve found to the trick.
The October 1961 edition of the IJA Newsletter featured an unknown juggler using a spiral version of the Kara Box. As you can see below, he didn’t use it in a balance, thus making it one of the easiest juggling tricks of all time!
The following illustrations of the trick appeared in The Art of Juggling by Nikolai Bauman, which was published in 1962. This book was the juggling textbook for Soviet circus schools.
The Kara Box was performed by Ukrainian juggler Alexander Brezitskiy in the 1970s and 1980s.
In the 1980s, Kit Summers’ book Juggling With Finesse featured the following illustration of the trick.
The Kara Box was performed by Jeff Taveggia in the 1980s. His version of the prop was built at RBBB Clown College by juggler David Berman and Ringling master prop builder George Shellenberger and was passed down to Jeff. You can see it in the video below.
An art exhibit that was held in conjunction with the IJA’s 50th Anniversary 1997 featured the following piece by Karen Gersch.
One of the most recent jugglers that I’m aware of that performed a balanced Kara Box is Barry Friedman of the Raspyni Brothers. You can see a photo of him performing it at the 2005 BJC below.
To the best of my knowledge, only two jugglers currently perform the Kara box. Jana Nicolas of Chile works with a traditional Kara Box, as you can see at the end of the following video.
Australian juggler Earl Shatford performs with a circular Kara Box similar to one used by Selma Braatz. Below, you can see an illustration of Selma Braatz’s version followed by video of Earl performing with his.
Selma Braatz Kara Box
A few other modern jugglers have taken inspiration from the Kara Box. A front facing back pack Kara Box was made and used by Swedish juggler and juggling historian Erik Åberg.
Below is a video of Jay Gilligan and Erik Åberg using Kara Box-style ramps in a unique way.
The video below shows the use of a Kara Box-like ramp system by Impredecibles Circo.