Author credit: Michael Gasparrini
Have you ever been mesmerized by the whirl of balls, tossed into the air by a juggler? Like many other acrobatic and circus skills, juggling requires time and practice, but is overall an extremely accessible activity!
Whether you are a seasoned gymnast looking to add another skill to your repertoire, or simply just someone looking for a new hobby, it may be time you give it a try.
What does a Juggler do in a Circus?
Chances are, one of the first images that pop into your mind when you hear the word “circus”, is of an individual tossing balls, bowling pins, or the occasional flaming torch, up into the air and catching them with ease.
Performed by jugglers, juggling is a staple act in the circus world, as well as an awesome trick to help performers of all sorts hone in on their hand to eye coordination and rhythm.
There aren’t many things quite as mesmerizing as the rise and fall of a juggler’s balls, as they seamlessly flow throughout the air.
Luckily, while juggling, especially at expert levels can seem daunting, it takes a relatively low toll on the body to get started.
It is the perfect skill to practice when you are stuck at home, hanging out at the beach, or when you are too sore to practice more involved acrobatics.
How to Juggle for Complete Beginners (Without Balls)
To start juggling, you really only need to gather three objects that can fit in the palm of your hand. Hacky sacks, tennis balls, or a few pieces of fruit should be all you need to begin.
In my case, I simply filled up three balloons with sand from the beach!
The Easiest Two-Step Method
When starting, the best step is to simply drop two of the balls, and practice tossing just one ball up.
Have fun seeing how high you can get it to go without it moving too far away from you.
Then pick up the second one. With one in each hand, begin to count 1, 2, 1, 2. Like a stationary dance, where the balls are your partner, rhythm is everything.
You should throw the first ball slightly in the direction of your opposite hand, and when it reaches its peak – throw the second one.
This is the basic pattern for the three ball cascade – which is what this pattern becomes when the next ball is added.
Next, Adding the Third Ball…
Adding the third ball is when rhythm truly becomes the name of the game.
At first, the balls may fly away from you and throwing and catching all three will be a challenge, but this part of the fun. When you can successfully throw and catch all three, stop.
Then try four – five, and onwards, until your hands find the pattern.
Yes, that’s pretty much it.
The Pro Tips to Learn Fast
Of course, it can be frustrating initially, but here are a few tips for starting out – Try and release the ball at 90 degrees each time.
Too soon, and your ball will launch forward. Too late, and it will escape behind you. Keep your elbows close to your body, and try to let go of the ball near your center, versus with your arm off to the side.
Don’t forget to play with height!
The higher you throw the ball, the harder it will be to control it, but the more time you will have to spot it for the catch.
On the other hand, the lower you throw the ball, the more the accuracy of your toss will increase – but so will the speed at which you need to catch them.
Once you have a decent grasp of the three ball cascade, the sky is really the limit. With three balls, there are a multitude of patterns to play with, and different ways of throwing the balls.
Juggler’s tennis, reverse cascade, the shower, and the one two up, are just a few of the pattern’s that you can experiment with.
Getting better at Juggling
The best way to try and decipher the motions of some of these additional patterns, and for the matter the basic three ball throw, would be to watch a recording of someone doing them!
See where they keep their arms, where they look in the air, and how high they throw the balls. Then pick up whatever you have and start tossing for yourself!
When you feel daring enough to step it up a notch, pick up a fourth ball – or just drop back down to two. Try juggling two balls, but with only one hand. While it sounds simple enough, this is actually the starting place for the four ball pattern.
When using four, the balls never actually switch hands, but are just a one hand juggling taking place on both sides simultaneously.
Getting confused? Not to worry, once you are ready to throw, even just one ball, you’ll be doing a lot more feeling than thinking.
Juggling takes time and practice, but it also takes relaxation. Stay loose, and have fun with it, you may have just begun to practice your new favorite performance art!