As I look through the many thousands of photos in the archives of the Museum of Juggling History and of the IJA, I occasionally come across juggling acts or routines that are particularly unique. Unique acts are more rare than you might think, as good acts and routines are quickly copied by other performers. We see this now with jugglers copying Michael Moschen’s triangle, Daniel Menendez’s bounce piano, and Greg Kennedy’s cone and bounce V (Orthogonal). This is not a new occurrence. Jugglers quickly copied Salerno’s Salerno Ring and his Picture Frame Trick, Kara’s Kara Box, Ferry Mader’s Cups and Saucers routine, and his Growing Candle Stick routine. Dozens of jugglers have copied Francis Brunn’s Brunn Finish, which Francis copied from Angelo Piccinelli. Almost any successful invention by a juggler is going to be copied. Now, I don’t claim to know every juggling act in the world, but I do probably know more than 99.9% of the juggling population. While I can’t promise you that no one has ever copied the following routines and acts, they are unique to the best of my knowledge.
When you think of Ernest Montego and unique tricks, you probably think of his finale act – performing the Brunn Finish on a giraffe unicycle.
It is true that this trick has never been perfectly replicated, but others have done versions of the trick while omitting parts of the combination trick. Alberto Sforzi performed the combination trick, minus a ring on the arm and a ring on the leg, on a small unicycle. You can see this trick by clicking here. Rene Joannides performed a greatly simplified version of the trick on a tall unicycle. You can see this pictured below.
Another unique trick on Ernest Montego was his jump steal of three clubs from his partner, Annerose. Ernest had seen a photo of the Four Philips doing a leapfrog steal and decided that the trick would be a great addition to the act. What he didn’t know is that the trick is done by the juggler in the rear pushing off of the front juggler’s shoulders in order to leap high enough to make it over the front juggler’s head and steal their clubs. Ernest and Annerose learned the trick with no push off. Ernest’s ballet talent and gymnastics background allowed him to leap high enough to do it without touching Annerose at all. No other act has ever done it this way.
You can see both of Ernest’s unique tricks in the following video.
Gil Dova is one of the better known jugglers discussed here. He had two famous elements of his act that I’m not aware of anyone else copying. The first was the element of performing an entire cigar box routine while standing on a raised, cigar box-sized platform.
Gil’s props and the horse are now on display in the Museum of Juggling History. You can see Gil perform both of these elements in the following video.
Rovaki is a French juggler known for his toss juggling and devil stick work on a unique treadmill slackwire contraption. You can see video of his act below, which includes two devil sticks while balancing on a board that is balanced on the wire.
Grant and Mattoon
Grant and Mattoon were a vaudeville act in the 1910s. Little is known about them, but we do know that they had an act that included a variety of skills, including head to head balancing, hand balancing, and object balancing. You can see some of these in the following photos.
The truly unique aspect of their act was an enormous Kara box (click here to read my previous article on the history of the Kara Box) that used cannon balls and with were caught on the neck of one of the two performers. You can see this amazing routine pictured below. This is surely one of the craziest juggling routines I’ve ever come across.
Duo Danee is the husband and wife team of Mario and Diana Walter. The perform ball bouncing and passing on a slack wire. One routine in their act features Mario bouncing balls off a platform while balancing on the slack wire.
While rare, this has been performed by some other acts. What is unique in their act are a couple of tricks involving an inverted head balance. Mario bounces balls off the platform while balancing upside down on the other platform. Additionally, as a finale, the duo pass balls while each balanced upside down on the opposing platforms.
You can see both of these unique tricks in the following video.
Sheriff Don Pedro
Now, I have to admit that I know nothing about this act or performer other than what can be gleaned from the photo below. It appears to show a juggler dressed as a giant puppet wearing a sombrero. The juggler can apparently see out of the sombrero. He stands on a raised platform and kicks bowls up onto a long tray which I assume is attached to the sombrero. As you can see in the photo, this appears to be a world class juggling trick, performed in a ridiculous manner. If anyone knows anything more about this act, please let me know.
In part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss several other unique acts. If you can think of an act or routine that is completely unique, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll include it in the next article as well.