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What is Juggling?

Momo Bonobo

Juggler holding 6 clear juggling balls

Juggling, the art of keeping multiple objects in motion simultaneously through a series of tosses and catches, is a fascinating spectacle that has stood the test of time. From its earliest traces in ancient civilizations to the sophisticated, multi-prop performances of today, juggling has evolved tremendously while continuing to captivate audiences worldwide.

Historically, juggling’s oldest depiction dates back to about 2000 BCE in Egypt, where tomb paintings showcased women performing the skill. It was not just an entertainment medium but also a spiritual practice and a method of demonstrating physical prowess in several cultures.

Key Facts about the History of Juggling:

  • Ancient Beginnings: The first recorded evidence of juggling comes from Egypt around 2000 BCE. It is also depicted in ancient Greek, Roman, and Chinese art.
  • Medieval Times: Juggling was a common act in medieval fairs and festivals across Europe. Jugglers, or ‘joculators,’ as they were then known, would perform in courts and marketplaces.
  • Circus Era: In the 18th and 19th centuries, juggling gained popularity as a standard circus act, and the art form developed dramatically during this period.
  • Modern Age: The 20th century saw a rise in juggling conventions, competitions, and festivals, propelling it into a form of international competitive sport and performance art.

Throughout its history, several jugglers have left their mark on the art form. One such prominent figure is Enrico Rastelli, an Italian juggler in the early 20th century, renowned for his extraordinary skills and techniques. Many jugglers during his time were of the “gentleman juggler style“. They would wear more formal attire and juggle everyday objects such as hats, canes, loaves of bread, or bottles. He decided to use objects more suited to throwing such as plates, sticks, and balls, which led him to achieve technical skills far beyond any of his contemporaries. He could even juggle ten balls at once, and his tricks are still replicated by jugglers today.

Another notable juggler is Francis Brunn, who took the art of juggling to new heights in the mid-20th century. Known for his lightning-fast speed and ballet-like performances, Brunn was famous for his unique one-ball routine, a stark contrast to traditional multi-ball juggling. He was one of the most influential figures in the development of contact juggling, which encompasses various techniques that do not involve using hands to hold the balls.

In today’s world, juggling is more than just an entertainment act. It’s widely recognized as a form of flow arts, a practice that cultivates focus, coordination, and creativity. It’s used as a method of self-expression, an exercise to improve mental and physical health, and even as a competitive sport in international championships.

Juggling is an accessible and exciting art form that brings joy to people of all ages. Whether you’re a beginner or have some experience, it offers a rewarding challenge for both the mind and body. Don’t be discouraged by initial drops; they’re part of the learning process. Check out what we have here!