The city of Ludwigshafen played host to the annual Wintercon juggling convention from Friday 24th – Sunday 26th February 2017. Here follow my recollections from the event.
Friday – Arrival
Phil drove us from the airport to the convention and we arrived pretty late on the Friday night having had a long day of travelling. Both Jenni and I were pretty tired so did not take much in on the first night.
We arrived at the community centre (Kulturzentrum dasHaus) in the town and proceeded to the registration desk where we paid and were issued with our cardboard laminated passes. We didn’t see the rooms that had been put aside for sleeping but instead headed to the main juggling space. There is a lobby which is used for juggling which opens out into the main juggling hall. This is a fairly small venue with a balcony and a small stage at one end. There are lights hanging down around the perimeter of the hall which make interesting potential hazards to an unwary juggler. It was pretty cosy in there and smelled a bit like a warm and moist juggling space.
We met Devilstick Matt in the lobby and were all equally surprised (still haven’t got used to him being in Germany and he didn’t expect to see us there!) Bumped into Toto who immediately tried to cajole me into joining a manipulator pattern, but I was too tired out from travelling. Said hello to Matty and Leo and a few other folks I recognised. I watched Mees Jager and Jan Poolen practising 9 balls in the hall and saw that Luka and Jan were there passing too.
Phil and I did some 5 club steals and Rasmus and I did a spot of 10 club passing. Jenni was asleep on her feet and getting grumpy so we collected Rasmus, and Phil took us all back to his place for the night.
Phil and I were up early on Saturday morning so we headed out on bikes for some breakfast foraging around Heidelberg. We returned about an hour later with pastries, potato bread, cheeses and salad as well as fresh milk from a farm quite some ride from the town. Jenni and Rasmus were awake so we all tucked into a hearty breakfast.
We actually spent the morning touring Heidelberg and seeing the sites as well as looking round the town before making the trip back to Ludwigshafen. The city is quite an industrial centre and I understand the town is responsible for producing the majority of Germany’s clouds. I found it had a certain ‘Je ne sais quoi’ and I enjoyed seeing the Rhine with all the large container ships chugging along.
We arrived at the venue and Phil and I played Frisbee outside for a while. I learnt a new throw and cultivated an achy Frisbee arm.
Lots of juggling happened.
We headed out to an Italian restaurant which Rasmus had eaten at the previous evening. Unfortunately they did not have a table for us despite our insistence that we were very hungry (an understatement) and incredibly wealthy (an overstatement). We settled for a burger place at the Rhein-Galerie nearby and enjoyed a very nice selection of burgers. I LOVED my Waikiki Chicken Burger with sweet potato fries.
The Open Stage Show
We headed back to the venue and arrived just in time for the dimming of the lights for the Open Stage show.
Disclaimer: I missed many of the artists’ names due to not understanding German well enough. I filled in a few blanks after the show as best I could. Apologies.
The show opened with Mees performing some interesting new tricks with diabolos. There was a good mix of juggling mixed with diabolo as well as some nice whippy whippy tricks. Great confidence on stage, finished with a good bow.
This was followed by Jona (?) who performed with various different props. It was a bit too Water on Mars-ish and needed a lot more audience interaction. I also felt it went on a little bit too long. However, there were some really nice ring sequences, 7 ring flash, arm bounce tricks with juggling balls and some very nice 6 ball patterns. Magnetic clubs happened but needed some more unique tricks in there.
An acro trio took to the stage (I am sorry I didn’t get any names) and they were wonderful to watch. It looked like 3 young friends who practised together decided to put together a routine. It wasn’t amazingly polished (just the right amount of shaky in places) but was really well choreographed. I loved the way it had been put together, great transitions. Jenni’s favourite act.
Jan, Luka and Foppe took to the stage and gave a very high energy and pretty technical rock and roll club passing routine. Great connections between the different patterns. I didn’t understand what the small bits of wood were about… Air guitar = always good. Great confidence and great fun. Luka did some crazy corrections during one of the patterns which was pretty amazing, couldn’t believe they kept the pattern going. 9 club finish. Bedlam.
Marcus Furtner performed a rock and roll devilstick routine with live electric guitar and singing provided by Julian (possibly bad spelling, apologies). I didn’t get the reference as I had not seen the previous routine to this track, also the new lyrics were sang in German so the joke was a bit lost on me. However, the devilstick skills were as superb as ever and the presentation was excellent. Just wish I had known what was going on.
Next was Cristian (again possible misspelling, apologies) who performed a glow poi routine. I really enjoyed it! I loved the movement, the energy and the shapes and patterns produced by the poi. It was really well put together and had the feel of someone just jamming to their favourite song. It was properly choreographed and practised too though as there were lots of music cues hit flawlessly. I wanted just a tiny bit more background lighting so that we could see him dancing in the background. It was just such a pleasure to watch! I actually dislike the song but would happily watch the routine again as it was so well done. Bravo. Both mine and Jenni’s second favourite act.
Felix Feldmann closed the show with his excellent ‘ball-clubs’ routine. Before now I had only ever seen Felix toying with the ball-clubs and I had loved the different tricks he had created. The full routine was well worth the wait for me, especially with the matching costume! I loved his presentation and character on stage but the tricks were just brilliant. It was pretty clean too especially considering that he had arrived at the convention just 15mins before his slot in the show! It was my favourite act of the show.
After the show Phil and I did some messing about with headbouncing and some more 5 club steals. Rasmus and I did some 10 and 11 club passing with a noticeable improvement from the last time we tried 11. Around this time most of the room stopped and gathered round Luka as he’d been juggling 5 clubs for about 15 mins straight (got up to about half an hour before he dropped). Later on we watched Rasmus and Luka passing 12 clubs and it looked gorgeous. Quite a few good looking runs.
We wrapped up the evening around this time and headed back the Heidelberg for the night.
Another sunny day and we returned to the venue, rocked up at about midday after having a lazy morning and eating lots of cheese.
There were lots of people playing outside in the sun when we arrived back at the venue. Phil and I warmed up by playing double Frisbee this time with mixed success. The wind was very cool but it was actually warm in the sun.
The games took place outside on the paved area.
It was nice to see an Acro endurance game take place, and there was a large Acro crowd in attendance. Instead of diabolo in a box where everyone launches at once there was ‘diabolo in the ring’ where players take it in turn to throw a diabolo to land in the juggling ring placed on the floor. This game took a very long time. So long that Rasmus and I tried some headbounce with 5 club passing inside for a bit.
Phil did very well translating the club balance endurance tasks to me, especially as he was balancing his club on his chin at the time.
I came second to Luka in the 5 club endurance. I have no shame there as I mentioned he achieved 30 mins solid the previous evening in the hall.
I think that Mees won the 7 ball endurance. I dropped on 645 in the 5 ball endurance.
I was genuinely impressed by Phil’s handstand.
3 club gladiators was punctuated regularly by short breaks while clubs were rescued from the glass roof above the entrance doors.
After the games had drawn to a close we headed back into the main juggling space and had a bit more of a juggle. Everyone was packing up and leaving at around this point so I made a few farewells in between patterns. I enjoyed a short ball passing session with Mees. We managed 11 although the 1x Norwick kept catching me out (I only had 10 balls with me). I had a good headbounce session and a good 7 ball session.
Convention Close (and the best ribs in town)
With the convention closing around us we gathered up our things and Jenni, Rasmus, Phil, Felix and I travelled in convoy to a fantastic pilgrimage site in Heidelberg. We went to Hakims and ate the spare ribs. I will never eat a more delicious set of ribs in all my days.
Our evening ended with playing Frisbee and boomerangs in Heidelberg’s parks by the river before calling in at an ice cream parlour just to top off the evening. The mango ice cream was not to my taste however the fruits of the forest and dark chocolate ones hit the spot! Thank you Phil, Rasmus, Felix and Jenni for being such good companions!
We had a great time in Ludwigshafen at the Wintercon convention! Thank you to the organisers for putting the event together and providing for a great weekend of juggling.
Check the website for information about future years: http://zirkus-mannheim.wixsite.com/wintercon