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Juggling The World

We all do it don’t we? Juggling work, social and family life can be hectic, but happily there’s an arguably more entertaining and less painful form of the noble art we all practise in spirit – so step into the Mayhem! big top and join us in going for the juggler.

World Juggling Day took place on 15th June!

The Clown Prince Juggling To The End

Juggling has a long and varied history as a form of entertainment – the words juggling and juggler have several possible roots, ranging from the Latin joculare to the French jangler. The most popular form of juggling is technically known as toss juggling, and the first known record of it comes from the tomb murals of an unknown early Egyptian prince (though it’s not known whether he was a Clown Prince, one of the first circus-obsessed royals of Ancient Egypt) which depicts dancers and acrobats in performance, including jugglers.

Ancient China also has an interesting association with the skill, as histories ranging from the period between 770–476 BC make mention of several noted jugglers, two shining examples being Lan Zi, from the state of Song, credited with juggling seven swords and Xiong Yiliao who, during a battle between the states of Chu and Song, juggled nine balls at the same time. Whether the entire battle was fought through the medium of juggling is sadly not recorded, though we like to think it was!

Unbelievably, throughout the Middle Ages this simplest of pleasures was frowned upon, put down by religious types who referred to jugglers disdainfully as ‘gleemen’ – motivated by the bizarre belief that to be able to balance several objects at once was a form of witchcraft, though a few diehards continued to perform in taverns and at marketplaces or fairs.

The Circus Rides In

Ask most people in this day and age, and they’ll tell you that juggling is primarily a circus art. And the man to thank for that is Philip Astley (possibly a forebear of 80s pop heartthrob Rick), who opened the first modern circus in 1768 and employed jugglers to work alongside his clowns and animal acts – a tradition which continued to an extent in the variety theatres and music halls of the 19th Century as performers took to the stage to fill time between acts, or while a set was changed.

In modern days, as the variety culture has died a death of sorts, a juggling subculture exists for those keen to keep the balance, with the World Juggling Federation (WJF) and International Jugglers Association (IJA) both keen to spread the tricks of the trade, though with each organisation having different agendas.

It’s a difficult balancing act, but head to www.thewjf.com or www.juggle.org, check out the skills on show and join in if you dare, or at least don’t mind making a fool of yourself should all go wrong with your set. Catch!