Friday, March 27, 2009

Juggle This! returns to Pratt Institute's Brooklyn Campus

By Gary Buiso

(Published in the 3.26 issue of 24/Seven)

Great jugglers aren’t born — they’re made.

Williamsburg resident Viveca Gardiner, the producer of an upcoming festival called Juggle This! knows this maxim better than anyone.

Gardiner first learned to juggle 13 years ago, at the tender age of 29 years old. She has since gone on to perform with the Big Apple Circus and the Flying Karamazov Brothers. “When it finally clicked, it was an epiphany,” she recalled. “Everything for the past 13 years is trying to keep that feeling,” she continued.
And if she can do it, anybody can do it.

“I have met very few people who can’t do it physically. Nobody is expected to be able to do it the first time, but most people have either psyched themselves out, or given up too early. If people put a lot of work into it, they can get a lot of fun out of it,” she said.

“I know a brilliant one-armed juggler, blind jugglers too,” Gardiner added.

Her upcoming event will give people of all ages — and all experience levels — a chance to learn from the best, and marvel at them too.

The eighth annual juggling festival will be held at Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn campus, 200 Willoughby Road, from April 3-5. The festival will include workshops, games, and a show featuring the best juggling culled from around the globe.

All events are open to the public and all, except the show, are free. Tickets for the April 4 show are $10 each, and available at Pratt’s Activities Resource Center building, and the show will be held inside Pratt Memorial Hall at 7:30 p.m. The show will feature the phenomenal German outfit called “Get the Shoe,” which combines martial arts, juggling, and storytelling. “It’s a fantastic narrative story,” Gardiner said. Other performers include the internationally renown Lin Juming, a Chinese acrobat making his North American debut. And Véronique Provencher, a brilliant performer and teacher at a juggling school in Canada.

Like in previous years, juggling with sharp knives, fire, or chainsaws will be prohibited inside Pratt’s gymnasium. After all, juggling is all fun and games until someone loses a limb.

The festival typically attracts 150 people each year, and the show brings in about 500, Gardiner estimated. Attending a workshop might be the best thing for a prospective juggler, she said. “Many people find it difficult if they try on their own, but its completely manageable when you get good instruction.” When taught correctly, she noted, it’s not the third ball that is the most difficult. It’s the second. Who knew?

The workshops work best for ages 8 and up, Gardiner said. For younger children, there will be other activity and skill sessions available during the event, she said.

Juggling materials will be available for borrow, or purchase from a wide range of vendors selling traditional-looking clubs or even a diabolo – an ancient Chinese yo-yo-esque device which is essentially a spool manipulated on a string tied to two sticks.

Juggling itself is rather ancient. According to Boston College Professor (and International Juggling Association judge) Arthur Lewbel, the earliest known representation of toss juggling is Egyptian, from the 15th Beni Hassan tomb of an unknown prince, dating from the middle kingdom period of about 1994-1781 B.C. “The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin has a Terra Cotta Statue from the time of Ptolomaer of ancient Thebes, about 200 B.C., of a man with balls balanced on different parts of his body,” he states in his paper, “Research in Juggling History,” adding that pictures of jugglers appear in various medieval illuminated manuscripts. From early texts and pictures it is clear that the commonest props used for juggling were balls, knives, and torches, the professor notes.

Gardiner, president of Playful Productions, a New York-based company that provides performers for assorted events, said nowadays, juggling dangerous objects is something done for show. “It’s not something done for the sake of juggling — it’s something done for performance.”
“My own juggling is about skill and sometimes beauty, and sometimes comedy. I’m not interested in danger,” she said.

The festival’s schedule is as follows: Open juggling will be held at the ARC building on Friday, April 3, from 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m.; Juggling and workshops at ARC on April 4 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Workshops, juggling, and games at ARC on Sunday, April 5, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The show will be held at Pratt Memorial Hall, April 4 at 7:30. For more information about Juggle This! go to


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