The Tube and Balls Routine

One particular interest of mine is researching props and routines that were once popular among jugglers but that are now almost completely forgotten. One such example is the Tube and Balls Routine. This routine used a tube and two or three balls to perform a variety of tricks. Let’s take a look at this routine’s history before we examine what can be done with these props.

Catalogs

The tube and balls were sold by Van Wyck in their 1908 catalog. and in Stanyon’s catalog in 1903. You can see images of both of these below.

Van Wyck catalog

The IJA Archives includes a book showing measurements of many of Van Wyck’s props, including the tube shown above. Here is a photo from that book.

It was also included in Stanyon’s catalog in 1903.

Stanyon catalog

Juggling Instruction Books

The Art of Juggling

The book The Art of Juggling by William Delisle was published in 1910 by Edward Van Wyck. It included a small section on the tube and balls routine, which you can see below.

 

Want To Be A Juggler?

Want To Be A Juggler? by George DeMott was published in 1962. It included some very brief instruction on the tube and balls routine and the following illustration.

The instruction for the tube and balls routine in both of these of books is unclear and too brief. Fortunately, we do have some video of the routine, which you’ll see later in the article.

Basic Juggling Technique

Basic Juggling Technique by Bob Menary was published in 1994 and includes two pages on the tube and balls routine. You can see some illustrations from the section below.

L’Art De La Jonglerie

The book L’Art De La Jonglerie by Dominique Denis, published in 1987, features the routine, as you can see below.

 

Performers

Rosani

Rosani (Joseph Stadtmuller, 1868-1944) was a juggler who played the American Lyceum and Chautauqua circuits, performing up to a two-hour show for 40 years. Included in his huge repertoire of tricks and routines was the tube and balls routine. You can see some tubes on his prop stand in the following photo.

Below is a close up of one Rosani’s tubes, which I recently located.

George DeMott

George DeMott (1907-1986), whom I discussed earlier regarding his book, performed the tube and balls routine in almost every show.

George Lerch

George Lerch

George Lerch was a popular juggler and slack rope performer in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. You can read my previous article about him and can see him briefly do some impressive tube and balls work by clicking here.

*******

I was not aware of anyone who performed the traditional tube and balls routine since George Lerch, so I made a tube from a Pringles can and learned the following routine for the Juggling History Show that I occasionally perform.

Legacy

The tube and balls routine may have been forgotten, but it’s legacy lives on in four other routines. The best known is the tennis balls and can routine that was invented by Scott Slesnick in the early 1990s. It is more or less the tube and balls routine with one end of the tube sealed. Below is a video of the original routine that Scott performed with the can and balls in 1993.

The tennis balls and can have become a popular routine in the juggling community. Below you can see a video of Matt Hall’s can and balls routine.

Another well-know performer of the tennis can and balls is Dan Holzman, whom you can see below.

When Dan Holzman saw the tube and balls in an old Van Wyck catalog, he was curious about it. This curiosity lead him to invent the Volcano Ball prop, which is a modern take on the traditional tube and balls. It is open on each end, which flare out a little, and has the addition of holes on the sides so that balls can be stopped with the fingers that grasp the tube. You can see Dan’s Volcano Ball work below.

In the early 1990s, Jerry Martin created an act where two stage balls were juggled with and through plumbing pipes that consisted of two 4″ right-angle PVC elbows fitted together to make a U-shaped pipe. By rotating the two pipes at the join, the shape could be changed to an S shape, or alternatively a three dimensional path halfway between a U and an S.

A new skill toy that is a variation of the tube and balls is the Pindaloo. A Pindaloo set consists of a tube shaped like a U and two hard balls. The balls can be stored in the tube, as it comes with lids for both ends of the tube. This toy comes from Israel. Check out the promo video for it as well as a video that I made after about an hour of practice with it.

The tube and balls routine and its modern versions are very fun to do and are not too difficult to perform. If you’re looking for something to add to your repertoire, you might want to consider learning this old skill.

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of sixteen books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

Leave a Reply