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Old 11-25-06, 12:55 PM   #61
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Club Street Juggler in 1861 (continued)

'From Oxford I worked my way over to Ireland. I had got my hand into juggling now, but I kept on with my old apparatus, though I bought a new set in Dublin. I used to have a bag and bit of carpet, and perform in streets. I had Indian's dress made, with a long horse-hair tail down my back, and white bag-trousers, trimmed with red, like a Turk's, tied right round at the ankles, and a flesh-coloured skull-cap. My coat was what is called a Turkish fly in red velvet, cut off like a waist-coat, with a peak before and behind. I was a regular swell, and called myself the Indian Juggler. I used to perform in the barracks twice a-day, morning and evening. I used to make a heap of money. I have taken, in one pitch, more than a pound. I dare say I've taken 3 pounds a-day, and sometimes more indeed; I've saved a waggon and a booth there, - a very nice one, - and the waggon cost me 14 pounds second-hand; one of Vickry's it was, a wild-beast waggon. I dare say I was six months in Dublin, doing first-rate. My performances was just the same then as they is now; only I walked on stilts, and they was new then, and did the business. I was the first man seed in Ireland either juggling or on the stilts.

'I had a drum and pipes, and I used to play them myself. I played any tune, - anythink, just what I could think of, to draw the crowd together; then I'd mount the stilts and do what I called 'a drunken frolic,' with a bottle in my hand, tumbling about and pretending to be drunk. Then I'd chuck the balls about, and the knives, and the rings, and twirl the plate. I wound up with the ball, throwing it in the air and catching it in a cup. I didn't do any balancing pipes on my nose, not whilst on the stilts.

'I used to go out one day on the stilts and one on the ground, to do the balancing. I'd balance pipes, straws, peacocks' feathers, and the twirling plate.

'It took me a long time learning to catch the ball in the cup. I practised in the fields or streets; anywhere, I began by just throwing the ball a yard or two in the air, and then went on gradually. The first I see do the ball was a man of the name of Dussang, who came over with Ramo Samee. It's a very dangerous feat, and even now I'm never safe of it, for the least wind will blow it to the outside, and spoil the aim. I broke my nose at Derby races. A. boy ran across the ring, and the ball, which weighs a quarter of a pound, was coming right on him, and would have fallen on his head, and perhaps killed him, and I ran forward to save him, and couldn't take my aim proper, and it fell on my nose, and broke it. It bled awfully, and it kept on for near a month. There happened to be a doctor looking on, and he came and plastered it up; and then I chucked the ball up again, (for I didn't care what I did in them days), and the strain of its coming down made it burst out again. They actually gived me money not to throw the ball up any more I got near a sovereign, in silver, give me from the Grand Stand, for that accident.

'At Newcastle I met with another accident with throwing the ball. It came down on my head, and it regularly stunned me, so that I fell down. It swelled up, and every minute got bigger, till I almost thought I had a double head, for it felt so heavy I could scarce hold it up, I was obliged to knock off work for a fortnight.

'In Ireland I used to make the people laugh, to throw up raw potatoes and let them come down on my naked forehead and smash. People give more money when they laugh. No, it never hurt my forehead, it's got hardened; nor I never suffered from headaches when I was practicing.

'As you catch the ball in the cup, you are obliged to give, you know, and bend to it, or it would knock the brains out of you pretty well. I never heard of a man killing himself with the ball, and I've only had two accidents.

'I got married in Ireland, and then I started off with the booth and waggon, and she used to dance, and I'd juggle and balance. We went to the fairs, but it didn't answer, and we lost all; for my wife turned out a very bad sort of woman. She's dead now, through drink. I went to the Isle of Man from Ireland; I had practised my wife in the stilts, and learnt her how to use them, and we did well there. They never see such a thing in their lives, and we took money like dirt. They christened us the "Manx Giants." If my wife had been like my present one, I should be a made gentleman by this time; but she drank away my booth, and waggon, and horse, and all.

'I saved up about 20 pounds in the Isle of Man; and from there we went to Scotland, and there my wife died, - through drink. That took away all the money I had saved. We didn't do much in Scotland, only in one particular town, - that's Edinburgh - on New-year's day. We took a good deal of money, 2 pounds I think; and we carried coppers about in a stocking with me.

'I travelled about .in England and Wales when I married my second wife. She's a strong woman, and lifts 700 lbs. by the hair of her head.

'When I got back to London I hadn't a shilling in my pocket, though my wife was very careful of me; but times got bad, and what not. We got a situation at 12s. a day, and all collections, at Stepney fair, which would sometimes come to a pound, and at others 30s; for collections is better than salary any days: that set us up in a little house, which we've got now.

'I'm too old now to go out regularly in the streets. It tires me too much, if I have to appear at a penny theatre in the evening. When I do go out in the streets, I carry a mahogany box with me, to put my things out in. I've got three sets of things now, knives, balls, and cups. In fact, I never was so well off in apparatus as now; and many of them have been given to me as presents, by friends as have gi'n over performing. Knives, and balls, and all, are very handsome. The balls, some a pound, and some 2 lbs. weight, and the knives about 1 1/2 lbs.

'When I'm out performing, I get into all the open places as I can. I goes up the Commercial-road and pitches at the Mile-end-gate, or about Tower-hill, or such-like. I'm well known in London, and the police knows me so well they very seldom interfere with me. Sometimes they say, "That's not allowed, you know, old man!" and I say, "I shan't be above two or three minutes," and they say, "Make haste, then" and then I go on with the performance.

'I think I'm the cleverest juggler out. I can do the pagoda, or the canopy as some calls it; that is a thing like a parasol balanced by the handle on my nose, and the sides held up by other sticks, and then with a pea-shooter I blow away the supports. I also do what is called "the birds and bush", which is something of the same, only you knock off the birds with a pea-shooter. The birds is only made of cork, but it's very difficult, because you have to take your balance agin every bird as falls; besides, you must be careful the birds don't fall in your eyes, or it would take away your sight and spoil the balance. The birds at back are hardest to knock off, because you have to bend back, and at the same time mind you don't topple the tree off.

'These are the only feats we perform in balancing, and the juggling is the same now as ever it was, for there ain't been no improvements on the old style as I ever heerd on; and I suppose balls and knives and rings will last for a hundred years to come yet.

'I and my wife are now engaged at the "Temple of Mystery" in Old Street Road, and it says on the bills that they are "at present exhibiting the following new and interesting talent", and then they calls me "The Renowned Indian Juggler, performing his extraordinary Feats with Cups, Balls, Daggers, Plates, Knives, Rings, Balancing, etc. etc."

'After the juggling I generally has to do conjuring. I does what they call "the pile of mags", that is, putting four halfpence on a boy's cap, and making them disappear when I say "Presto, fly!" Then there's the empty cups, and making 'taters come under 'em, or there's bringing a cabbage into a empty hat. There's also making a shilling pass from a gentleman's hand into a nest of boxes, and such-like tricks: but it ain't half so hard as juggling, nor anything like the work.

'I and my missis have 5s. 6d. a night between us, besides a collection among the company, which I reckon, on the average, to be as good as another pound a-week, for we made that the last week we performed.

'I should say there ain't above twenty jugglers in all England - indeed, I'm sure there ain't - such as goes about pitching in the streets and towns. I know there's only four others besides myself in London, unless some new one has sprung up very lately. You may safely reckon their earnings for the year round at a pound a week, that is, if they stick to juggling; but most of us joins some other calling along with juggling, such as the wizard's business, and that helps out the gains.

Before this year, I used to go down to the sea-side in the summer, and perform at the watering-places. A chap by the name of Gordon is at Ramsgate now. It pays well on the sands, for in two or three hours, according to the tides, we picks up enough for the day.'

[British currency at the time consisted of pounds, shillings (s.) and pence (d). There were twelve pence to one shilling and twenty shillings to one pound. A sovereign was one pound coin. A half-crown was two shillings and sixpence. Ed.]
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Old 11-25-06, 12:58 PM   #62
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UK Interview by Henry Mayhew

The juggler from whom I received the following account, was spoken of by his companions and friends as 'one of the cleverest that ever came out'. He was at this time performing in the evening at one of the chief saloons on the other side of the water.

He certainly appears to have been successful enough when he first appeared in the streets, and the way in which he squandered the amount of money he then made is a constant source of misery to him, for he kept exclaiming in the midst of his narrative, 'Ah! I might have been a gentleman now, if I hadn't been the fool I was then.'

As a proof of his talents and success he assured me, that when Ramo Samee first came out, he not only learned how to do all the Indian's tricks, but also did them so dexterously, that when travelling 'Samee has often paid him ten shillings not to perform in the same town with him.'

He was a short man, with iron-grey hair, which had been shaved high upon the temples to allow him to assume the Indian costume. The skin of the face was curiously loose, and formed deep lines about the chin, whilst in the cheeks there mere dimples, or rather hollows, almost as deep as those on a sofa cushion. He had a singular look, from his eyebrows and eyes being so black.

His hands were small and delicate, and when he took up anything, he did it as if he were lifting the cup with the ball under it.

'I'm a juggler,' he said, 'but I don't know if that's the right term, for some people call conjurers jugglers; but it's wrong. When I was in Ireland they called me a "manulist", and it was a gentleman wrote the bill out for me. The difference I makes between conjuring and juggling is, one's deceiving to the eye and the other's pleasing to the eye - yes, that's it - it's dexterity.

'I dare say I've been at juggling forty years, for I was between fourteen and fifteen when I begun, and I'm fifty-six now. I remember Ramo Samee and all the first process of the art. He was the first as ever I knew, and very good indeed; there was no other to oppose him, and he must have been good then. I suppose I'm the oldest juggler alive.

'My father was a whitesmith, and kept a shop, in the Waterloo-road, and I ran away from him. There was a man of the name of Humphreys kept a riding-school in the Waterloo-road (there was very few houses there then only brick-fields - aye, what is the Victoria theatre now was then a pin-factory and a hatter's; it wasn't opened for performance then), and I used to go to this riding-school and practise tumbling when the horse-dung was thrown out, for I was very ambitious to be a tumbler. Then I used to go on this here dung-heap, sometimes father would want me to blow the fire or strike for him, and he'd come after me and catch me tumbling, and take off his apron and wallop me with it all the way home; and the leather strings used to hurt, I can tell you.

'I first went to work at the pin-factory where the Coburg's built now, and dropped tumbling then. Then I went to a hatter's in Oakley-street, and there I took to tumbling again, and used to get practising on the wool-packs (they made the hats then out of wool stuff and hare-skins, and such-like, and you couldn't get a hat then under 25s.); I couldn't get my heart away from tumbling all the time I was there, for I was set on it. I'd even begin tumbling when I went out on errands, doing hand-springs and starts-up (that's laying on your back and throwing yourself up), and round-alls (that's throwing yourself backwards on to your hands and back again to your feet), and walking on my hands. I never let any of the men see me practise. I had to sweep the warehouse up, and all the wool was there, and I used to have a go to myself in the morning before they was up.

'The way I got into my professional career was this: I used to have to go and get the men's beer, for I was kept for that. You see, I had to go to the men's homes to fetch their breakfasts, and the dinners and teas - I wish I had such a place now. The men gave me a shilling a-week, and there was twelve of them when in full work, and the master gave me 4s. 6d. Besides that they never worked on a Monday, but I was told to fetch their food just the same, so that their wives mightn't know; and I had all their twelve dinners, breakfasts, and so on. I kept about six of the boys there, and anybody might have the victuals that liked, for I've sometimes put 'em on a post for somebody to find.

'I was one day going to fetch the men's beer when I meets another boy, and he says, "You can't walk on your hands." "Cant I!" says I, and I puts down the cans and off I started, and went on my hands from one end of the street to the other, pretty nigh. Mr. Sanders, the rider, one of the oldest riders that was (before Ducrow's time, for Ducrow was a 'prentice of his, and he allowed Sanders 30s. a-week far all his lifetime), was passing by and he see me walking on my hands, and he come up and says, "My boy, where do you belong to?" and I answers, "My father;" and then he says, "Do you think he'd let you come along with me?" I told him I'd go and ask; and I ran off, but never went to father - You'll understand - and then in a minute or two I came back and said, "Father says yes, I may go when I think proper;" and then Mr. Sanders took me to Lock's-fields, and there was a gig, and he drove me down to Ware, in Hertfordshire.

'You may as well say this here. The circusses at that time wasn't as they are now. They used to call it in the profession moulding and the public termed it mountebanking. Moulding was making a ring in a field, for there was no booths then, and it comes from digging up the mould to make it soft for the horses' feet. There was no charge for seeing the exhibition, for it was in a field open to the public; but it was worked in this way: there was prizes given away, and the tickets to the lottery were 1s. each, and most of the people bought 'em, though they weren't obligated to do so. Sometimes the prizes would be a five-pound note, or a silver watch maybe, or a sack of flour, or a pig. They used to take the tickets round in a hat, and everybody saw what they drawed. They was all prizes - perhaps a penny ring - but there were no blanks. It was the last night that paid best. The first and second nights Sanders would give them a first rate prize; but when then last night came, then a half-crown article was the highest he'd give away, and that helped to draw up. I've know'd him give 4 pounds or 5 pounds away, when he'd not taken 2 pounds. Mr. Sanders put me to tumbling in the ring. I could tumble well before I went with him, for I'd practised on this dung-heap, and in this hatter's shop. I beat all his apprentices what he had. He didn't give me anything a-week, only my keep, but I was glad to run away and be a showman. I was very successful in the ring-tumbling, and from that I got to be clever on the stilts and the slack-rope, or, as they call it in the profession, the waulting-rope. When I was ragged I used to run home again and get some clothes. I've many a time seen him burst out in tears to see me come home so ragged. "Ah, 'he'd say, "where have you been now? - tumbling, I suppose." I'd answer, "Yes, father;" and then he'd say, "Ah, your tumbling will bring you to the gallows." I'd stop with him till he gave me some fresh clothes, and I'd bolt again. You see I liked it. I'd go do it for nothing. Now I dread it; but it's too late, unfortunately.

'I ran away from Sanders at last, and went back to father. One night I went to the theatre and there I see Ramo Samee doing his juggling, and in a minute I forgot all about the tumbling, and only wanted to do as he did. Directly I got home and I got two of the plates and went into a back room and began practicing at making it turn on the top of a stick. I broke nearly all the plates in the house doing this. That is what I didn't break, I cracked. I broke the entire set of a dozen plates, and yet couldn't do it. When mother found all her plates cracked, she said, "It's that boy;" and I had a good hiding. Then I put on my Sunday suit and bolted away again. I always bolted in my best clothes. I then went about tumbling in the public-houses, till I had got money enough to have a tin plate made with a deep rim, and with this plate I learnt it, so that I could afterwards do it with a crockery one. I kept on my tumbling till I got a set of wooden balls turned, and stuck coffin nails all over them so that they looked like metal when they was up; and I began teaching myself to chuck them. It took a long time learning it, but I was fond of it, and determined to do it. I was doing pretty well with my tumbling, making perhaps my 3s. or 4s. a-night, so I was pretty well off. Then I got some tin knives made and learnt to throw them: and I bought some iron rings and bound them with red and blue tape to make them look handsome; and I learnt to toss them the same as the balls. I practised balancing pipes too. Every time I went into a public house I'd take a pipe away, so it didn't cost me anything. I dare say I was a twelvemonth before I could juggle well. When I could throw the three balls middling tidy I used to do them on stilts, and that was more than ever a man attempted in them days; and yet I was only 16 or 17 years of age. I must have been summut then, for I went to Oxford fair, and there I was on my stilts, chucking my balls in the public streets, and a gentleman came up to me and asked me if I'd take an engagement, and I said "Yes, if it was a goodun" - for I was taking money like smoke; and he agreed to give me a pound a-day during the fair; it was a week fair. I had so much money, I didn't know what to do with it. I actually went and bought a silk neckerchief for every day in the week, and flash boots, and caps, and everything I could see, for I never had so much money as in them days. The master, too, made his share out of me, for he took money like dirt.
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Old 11-25-06, 01:14 PM   #63
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Club The History of Jugglingas compiled by Andrew Conway

Egypt Beni Hassan 1800BC

Probably religious: Hathor

Talmud – Jewish Old Testament

Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel 10BC to 70 AD – eight flaming torches

Levi bar Sissa (circa 150-220 AD) – eight knives

Shmuel bar Abba (180-275 AD) – Eight glasses of wine.
Also eight eggs and three myrtle branches.

Vase paintings. Usually women, often seated. Game?

In Xenophon's Symposium a female slave dances while juggling twelve rings. Written c360BC

Then Socrates: I see, the dancing-girl is standing ready; they are handing her some hoops.
And at the instant her fellow with the flute commenced a tune to keep her company, whilst some one posted at her side kept handing her the hoops till she had twelve in all. With these in her hands she fell to dancing, and the while she danced she flung the hoops into the air-- overhead she sent them twirling--judging the height they must be thrown to catch them, as they fell, in perfect time.
Then Socrates: The girl's performance is one proof among a host of others, sirs, that woman's nature is nowise inferior to man's. All she wants is strength and judgment; and that should be an encouragement to those of you who have wives, to teach them whatever you would have them know as your associates. […]

Hereupon a large hoop studded with a bristling row of upright swords [21] was introduced; and into the centre of this ring of knives and out of it again the girl threw somersaults backwards, forwards, several times, till the spectators were in terror of some accident; but with the utmost coolness and without mishap the girl completed her performance.

Athletic and martial art – seems to be a male activity.

Ursus Togatus is said to be the first "pilecrepus" who used a hollow crystal ball for this kind of juggling.

Publius Aelius the best of all (ball) jugglers.

In any case, the two pilarii to be seen on the grave stone of Septumia

Spica are male. Of, course this doesn't prove that she hasn't been a

pilarius (Pilaria ?) too.

Sidonius Apollinaris an officer in a Roman Legion who entertained his troops by performing juggling tricks with balls.

Japan – Otedama – Daikagura

Tonga and Pacific - Hiko

The head of the underworld is a lady, a blind lady [Hikuleo, ancient goddess of the underworld], and she was asked to stay put in her home. When she moves or gets outside, then there is an earthquake. So the story is that she snatches some of the people who were not authorized to approach the underworld. She picked out their eyes and put them in a wooden bowl and then she call her girls of the underworld and they sit in her house and do the juggling with the eyeballs.

"Then a soul escaped and relayed the story to the people of the earth, the Tongans. Then they started.

"Tongan girls were always grounded by the old women never to play hiko at night because the spirits from the underworld are coming up and they look around. And then the girls who would be caught juggling, they want to steal their eyeballs and take them to the underworld.

"Not a single male in the underworld ever went to the house or join in the game. She invited only girls . . just for Hikuleo and the girls.

Other Polynesian references.

Ngaru in juggling competition with the sky fairies (South pacific song 1790) Eight balls

Mangareva – Endurance competition, seated women, prize turtle from chief

China – devil stick and diabolo

Lan Zi, who performed in the Song State during the Warring States era, could juggle seven swords
Once, in a battle between the states of Chu and Song, the troops of the two sides were confronting each other in a fight at close quarters. Yiliao appeared in front of the Chu troops and calmly, in the face of the enemy's axes and spears, juggled nine balls at the same time. His superb performance stupefied the officers and warriors. The Song troops fled helter-skelter without fighting and the Chu troops won a complete victory.

5th and 3rd centuries BC

Native America


SHOSHONI. Wind River reservation, Wyoming.

Collected by the writer in 1900.

Occasionally rounded, water-worn stones are used. The Shoshoni name for the game is na-wá-ta-pi ta-na-wa-ta-pi, meaning to throw with the hand. The usual number of balls used is three, although two or four may be used. Contests of skill with these balls are occasions of considerable betting among the women, stakes of importance often being wagered. The usual play of the game is that two or more women agree upon some objective point, such as a tree or tipi to which they direct their steps, juggling the balls as they go. The individual who first arrives at the goal without having dropped one of the balls, or without having a mishap of any sort, is the winner of the contest... All Shoshoni who were interrogated on this point declared that the art of juggling had long been known by the women, and that before the advent of the whites into Wyoming contests for stakes among the women was one of their commonest forms of gambling. This game was also observed among the Bannocks, the Utes and the Palutes...

Coyote – eyeballs - Arcturus

Medieval times

King Olaf Trygvasson (963 - 1000) . Here's a quote from the Heimskringla, The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, by Snorri Sturlusson (c. 1179 - 1241).

King Olaf was more expert in all exercises than any man in Norway whose memory is preserved to us in sagas; and he was stronger and more agile than most men, and many stories are written down about it. He could play with three daggers, so that one was always in the air, and he took the one falling by the handle.

Tain koo-chULL-in

The reference is on page 34 of "The Tain" translated by Thomas Kinsella, OUP, 1970. It comes from the chapter entitled "Cuchulainn's Courtship of Emer, and his Training in Arms". This chapter is not taken from the Tain proper, but from one of the related stores, "Tochmarc Emire". Kineslla notes that his text is "Abridged from a tenth or eleventh century tale, from the text edited by A. G. Van Hamel in 'Compert Con Culainn and other stories'".

The full quote reads:

So Cúchulainn's training with Scáthach in the craft of arms was done : what with the apple-feat - juggling nine apples with never more than one in his palm; the thunder-feat; the feats of the sword-edge and the sloped shield; …

Balls and knives and magic

Shakespeare Comedy of Errors Act 1 Scene 2

They say this town is full of cozenage,

As, nimble jugglers that deceive the eye,

Dark-working sorcerers that change the mind,

Soul-killing witches that deform the body,

Disguised cheaters, prating mountebanks,

And many such-like liberties of sin:

Juggling becomes distinct from magic

Indian Jugglers, 1820 – still had magic etc.

Ramo Samee

Mayhew’s juggler, 1861

India – Club swinging

The beginning of club juggling, 1880s.

DeWitt Cook

First club passers

Devine Bros. of Lawrence, Mass

Rogers and Rourke of Lowell, Mass.

Devine "we did not know if it was possible to pass six clubs, and thought the best way for the audience to get a good view of the throws would be to stand side by side and face the audience (The man on the right side throws a high double to partners left hand; man on left throws a low club to partners left hand)". After getting it down they stood back to back and threw the clubs over their head to the other man

4 clubs

Charles Hoey of Natick, Mass –couldn't stop.

5 clubs

Ben Mowatt

6 clubs

Pat McBann practice, 4&2

John Breen –basketwork clubs (also 5C shower, 5C + balance. Died at 21)

Club manufacture


Harry Lind – the perfectionist

The talking comedy jugglers

Jugglers at start or end of show – dumb acts

Jim Harrigan – Tramp juggler – pawned costume.

"Don't you think it is a shame to take money for doing this."

What is the use of working when you can do this for a living?

On the chest [Fake drop line.]


The turn of the century


Cinquevalli, Kara, Salerno

The first book on juggling

Vaudeville and Burlesque

The start of vaudeville

In one

The lack of an MC (vs. music hall)

International travel

Hard tours

Tom Hearne – the laziest juggler

Juggles dexterously with cups, teapot, etc., and gets his

hand fixed in a cap, as he cannot get hand out smashes

cup with a hammer, then discovers lie has cut off half of

one of his fingers; (finger bent at middle joint) finds

portion of finger and sticks it on again.

Spins top hat round finger and other movements,

finally rolling hat along arm on to head.

Throws a large china vase, containing a tree 4 ft. high,

in the air, turns round and endeavours to catch vase but

it is smashed to pieces and performer falls over tree; and

continues every now and then to fall over this tree.

Fred Allen

Jimmy Savo – Kid - Ostrich

Keith and the end of vaudeville.


Founding of IJA, 1947

Volunteers unknown

TV just coming on the scene (high contrast props)

Black light

Fewer venues for juggling

First IJA hobbyist festival 1968 San Mateo, Roger Dollarhide, Homer Stack's back yard.

Rapid growth of IJA, boom in street performing in 70s.

And awwwwway we go ….

Last edited by Butterfly Man; 11-30-06 at 01:52 PM.
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Old 09-05-07, 08:28 AM   #64
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Bunny Calling all buskers

Martin Ewen and I are discussing a mutual endeavor to put together some of our writing.

His style and mine differ drastically ... we have no idea how to deal with that.

We had our 1st meeting last night ... we would like to grasp the essence of modern day street performing ('66-now).

1/it should touch on the HISTORY

2/it should include GEOGRAPHY (countries & pitches)

3/it should include PEOPLE (street performers)



or don't you care if you get a free copy or not?
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Old 09-05-07, 09:59 AM   #65
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Default Nordic Mythology

I remember reading somewhere in Nordic Mythology that the region of fire, a place called Musspellheim (spelling??) was guarded by a giant that juggles 7 daggers.
Busker Coordinator/ Performer- Sunsets at Pier 60 Daily Festival
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Old 09-05-07, 09:19 PM   #66
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Default flip for it!

"His style and mine differ drastically ... we have no idea how to deal with that."

Take turns writing chapters?

A good discussion of "what makes a good pitch" should be included. And how a good pitch is part and parcel of good urban design, downtown preservation, tourism, etc.

Something I can show the folks who are planning to remake Denver's 16th st mall.

They are planning a MAJOR remake and I would like to encourage them to include busking pitches that would actually WORK.
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Bill 'Stretch' Coleman

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Old 09-05-07, 10:26 PM   #67
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I think for the History, take a look at the legendary pitches and the acts that made them what they are today or what people talk about them being...
look at both circle pitches as well as sidewalk acts.

The S.F. Scene, The Boston Scene, New York Scene, The Key West Scene etc...

I do not know how many people should be listed in that book, but I am sure it is a mighty long list...

maybe offer two different perspectives on the same subject matter. who were the important acts and where it was happening.
Comedy Juggler | Variety Performer

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Old 09-06-07, 07:01 AM   #68
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I believe that the Travel Channel is going to 11 cities that are known for buskers and filming a special. They will be in Key West next week filming.
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Old 09-06-07, 07:24 AM   #69
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Make it as personal, anecdotal, and un-expert as possible.
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Old 09-06-07, 08:46 AM   #70
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I agree. I want to hear stories about people. I want to feel like I know them.
Well, maybe I WILL just keep telling myself that.
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Old 09-06-07, 09:20 AM   #71
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lots of pictures!!
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Old 09-06-07, 12:52 PM   #72
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Lightbulb worth a thousand words

I really like what I hear ...

I have an idea that I think might work ... I talked it over with the Jap and she thinks it might fly ...

"The Adventures of Vin Paraffin, the Ultimate Street Performer"

the title says it all really ...

it will have all the elements mentioned except pictures (sorry Lee) ... paintings, sketches, drawings of or by performers would replace pictures ...

everything is bigger and better in the land of Paraffin ...

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Old 09-06-07, 01:02 PM   #73
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I wanted to say -- It needs to read in a way that non-performers who have no idea what the life is like or what terms mean will get it. Unless you're writing a book solely FOR performers, but that's quite a small niche market.
Well, maybe I WILL just keep telling myself that.
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Old 09-09-07, 01:26 AM   #74
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Scot Casting Couch

I would like to write about many characters... one character I have in mind will be named Guzzo, I have alot of interesting things to say about him ... there will be others too.

I was thinking of a guy who dressed all in green named Tommy Terrorfied ... anyone like this name? ... do you have something better? Oh, he has a girlfriend (did) named Jeanie the Jester.

it is 'R' rated ... we were all much younger then.


I was thinking of calling one of the juggling acts in Boston, "The Bob Show" ... whatjathink? catchy eh?
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Old 09-15-07, 10:03 PM   #75
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Digby, The Fat Bavarian Juggling Man

Rapunzel? or Pinocchio? (tryin' a play on Rumpel there)

Patrick Loose-Change -- a brooding and anxt-ridden young man with ADD, working the streets of San Fran.

And finally,

Zim Leeberman -- essentially a hyperactive, abandoned ten-year-old who was raised by television and who just happens to be the greatest puppeteer Hollywood has ever seen.
Well, maybe I WILL just keep telling myself that.

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Old 01-17-09, 04:09 AM   #76
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Question is this us

Acts of Conscience – Dr Jane Mullett

Alternative circus began in the 1970s on the basis of a radical political agenda. The founders of the new circuses were influenced by the huge changes in Western society that were happening at this time. The underlying forces for this change have been well documented.

Social movements like feminism, civil rights, indigenous rights, conservation and animal liberation challenged basic tenets of Western society including the structure of the family, the meaning of work, and the role of gender and race in defining people's status. These movements helped literally shape the way we live. The political protests that they generated were influenced by forms of spectacle and conceptual art that ultimately altered the understanding of what constituted political activism (Stephens 1998).

Michael Watts provides a great description that gives a sense of the energy and inventiveness of political protest of the period:
Need I remind anyone that the late sixties produced Jerry Rubin, Alan Ginsberg and company attempting to levitate the Pentagon; the yippies causing havoc on Wall Street by throwing money on to the floor of the exchange; the Strasbourg Situationists denouncing boredom; the Dutch provos unleashing pandemonium in Amsterdam by releasing thousands of chickens in rush-hour traffic; the Diggers declaring love a commodity; and not least Ed Sanders and the Fugs setting off on their march on Prague to masturbate on the Soviet tanks? (2001:160:132)

These forms of protest, although often inventive and humerous, were based on a profound loss of trust in the structures of society - the government, the law, and in most forms of entrenched authority. They were also connected to experiments with alternative governance and living structures. This paper looks at how the early alternative circus made use of the ideas within conceptual protest and makes a comparison with some pointed performances by contemporary circus and physical theatre groups.

Within the circus genre conceptual protest is best seen in the work of Philippe Petit. Petit echoes the interests of his generation. He says of himself in 1968 at the beginning of his work, "I am barely eighteen years old, free, rebellious, and untrusting" (Petit 2002:5) .Petit is a French high-wire walker who is known for his three spectacular and daring clandestine wire walks. They were illegal, they involved the infiltration of three citadels of institutional power: the church, the state and private enterprise (if he'd done the military it would have been a perfect set).

Petit's work is the ultimate expression of the strong anti-authoritarian, romantic aspect of alternative circus. The illegal occupation of these iconic buildings for the period he was rigging the tightwire and walking the wire was an expression of defiance that was the epitome of its period. Benign, fun, brave and clever. He was arrested after each event, but was never held for long. The intent of the act was not to cause pain or hurt – rather it was to celebrate life.

The acts also remind us of earlier tightwire walkers who concentrated their efforts on overcoming the hazards of natural features such as the Niagara Falls. These events all celebrated team-work. Petit had a team working with him to break into the buildings, to get the gear in place, to rig the wire, and ultimately to film the walk. In this way the event is also part of the ephemeral installation artwork movement, which relied on film to record it. The clandestine walks are a testament to the lasting power of a right performance in the right place at the right time. Timing is everything in non-violent conceptual performance protest.

Of course, the New York Twin Towers no longer exist, having been targeted by a much more violent form of organised protest that gives us insight in to the period we are living in now and the one that circus artists must deal with in their response to the world.

Alternative circus, however was, and is, not particularly concerned with direct political action. Circus Oz, and its precursor Soapbox Circus, are two of the few groups that took their politics out of the circle of caravans and into the political arena in the early years of new circus. In the program of the Circus Oz 1985 show there is a picture of Circus Oz at Pine Gap - the joint US-Australian military satellite tracking facility, outside Alice Springs. The heading is "Circus Oz 'invades' Pine Gap" and it is teamed with a series of quotes from the local paper, the Centralian Advocate, "'I shall return' announced Australia's first marsupial spy, holding high his banner of anti-imperialism". Behind the quotes is a photograph of one of Circus Oz's signature life-sized kangaroo puppets at Pine Gap, fist aloft, holding a flag that is an amalgam of the red, yellow and black design of the Aboriginal flag and the southern cross of the official Australian flag.

While alternative circus has rarely become involved with direct political action, it did not ignore contemporary politics. Judy Finelli of the Pickle Family Circus, founded in 1974 in the US says, "Circus Oz. … comes right out and says, 'we're the non-sexist, non-racist, anti-nuke Circus Oz'. I can't see the Pickle Family Circus doing that, But simply ignoring what's going on isn't it either" (Lorant 1986:72).]

So how did the alternative circus express their politics?

The founders of the new circuses, looked to the circus as a way of living out their politics. Most alternative circus founders had already served an artistic apprenticeship within radical alternative theatre groups or had worked as buskers. They came to the circus with a sophisticated understanding of popular performance (Mullett 2005).

The lack of direct political statements in early alternative circus, it can be argued, is related to the circus environment itself, which provided a way for the performers to live out their political convictions. To fully embody one's politics was a widespread goal of the 1960s and 1970s. The feminist catch cry "the personal is political" dates from this time, as does the environment movement mantra, "think global - act local". To the outside world, including the founders of alternative circus, traditional circus appeared to inhabit a self-contained, lived environment. It was an example of a visible apparently self-governing sub-culture.

Circus was "a way of life"; it existed on the margins of society, in some ways. This was one of the substantial attractions for the founders of the new circuses in the 1970s. There were other attractions including; the visible strength of the women performers (Tait 2005) and the popular form of the circus show itself (Orenstein 1998). This paper, however, will concentrate on the visible performed life within the alternative circus. I hesitate to call this performed life 'performative' in the sense that it is used by Judith Butler (1990) nonetheless, I think that the way that the early new circus artists took on the circus was informed by contemporaneous debates about gender and identity. Butler talks about the parody of gender and the impossibility of an authentic original in a way that rings true to me when compared to the way that the new circus artists parodied and 'performed' the circus family, and visibly performed 'being a circus' on the road.

The circus family that the alternative circus constructed was in itself a construction. The performance of being a circus on the road similarly was always already a performance. In making this statement I am using the foundational work on traditional circus by Yoram Carmeli (1987b; 1990).

The earliest alternative circuses Cirque Bidon (1974), New Circus (1974) and the Pickle Family Circus (1974) all operated with aerial rigs, performed within a ring, under the open sky.

The tent, or the aerial rig, gave control over the performing environment. With a moveable rig or tent, alternative circus performers could reach a wider audience than that of the traditional middle-class theatres. In this, the new circuses were continuing the work of alternative theatres which engaged with new audiences in their workplaces, in the streets and in non-traditional theatre venues in the 1960s and 1970s. The tent or the outdoor rig was also closer to the street and to the busking tradition which was another significant influence on the start of alternative circus.

In the period when Pierrot Bidon was involved with Archaos it had a deep understanding of the relationship between space and politics (Little 1995). But most importantly, the tent was part of the performed politics of the early years of new circus.
The act of living in a cooperative community was performed publicly in public spaces. There are many published photographs that document the life on the road of the alternative circus. For example, Cirque Bidon on the road with their extended family was photographed by Bernard Lesaing (1981).

The traditional circus family was a constructed and performed family, as Yoram Carmeli has described (Carmeli 1991). It was also an extended family and a publicly displayed family. In the Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione 2003 program there is a page on which beautiful black and white photographs of the founding brothers are matched with photos of the contemporary Bouglione family. Each individual is photographed formally and separately. There is no sense of familiarity between them. This represents the traditional family - a 'real' family – expressed in its most conservative aspect.

It can be argued that the earliest alternative circus in France is Cirque Bonjour (later Cirque Imaginaire) although the first show of Cirque Bonjour was a clear collaboration with a traditional circus. It is also interesting that 1974 was a seminal year for new circus in France - Cirque Bidon; in Australia - New Circus (also a precursor to Circus Oz), and in the US - The Pickle Family Circus.

Terry Lorant photographed the Pickle Family Circus for years. The name itself, the Pickle Family Circus, is a parody of the traditional family circus name. The early alternative circuses were generally run as loose collectives and often made decisions through collective meetings. Even when there was a director in charge, the circus members can be seen to have influence on the development of the performance. Thus the cooperative nature of early alternative circus was used as a laboratory to investigate and experiment with alternative or radical models of societal structure.

In the contemporary alternative circus, radical politics is less often expressed in terms of a lived experience of communal familial structures. Today the alternative circus structure is much more likely to mirror the formal structure of a dance or theatre company with hierarchical roles of director, choreographer, and performer and so on.

So, how does the current alternative circus express its politics and have these politics changed?
The current use of tents by alternative circuses illustrates one way in which the political climate has changed. Many alternative circus companies are no longer seen as outside the mainstream and many receive funding directly from the government. They have access to privileged spaces that are rarely available to the traditional circus – Big Apple Circus puts its tent up in collaboration with the Lincoln Centre in central New York, Circus Oz puts its tent up in central Melbourne with the support of the Melbourne City Council, Cirque du Soleil as a rule looks for strategic sites of privilege to place its tents. There are of course exceptions, Cirque Ici appears to have a philosophy that links it to the tent and the meanings of being outside the normative structures of the society. Most alternative circuses do not own tents and the artists are also less likely to live full-time on the road in caravans. But the alternative circus still likes to bring 'home' to its audience, and to claim the circus ring as part of their performed familial life. The poster for the 2006 show that the Canadian group Les Sept doigts de la main toured to Australia, depicts the entire cast emerging from an old-fashioned fridge, clearly linking their work with the domestic daily routine of a family.

Many of the critiques of the mainstream that were part of the alternative circus movement in the 1970s and early 1980s have been absorbed into the mainstream or taken up by the cultural elites.

When art illuminates a contemporaneous predicament for an audience, a generation. A transformation of information that re-presents complex ideas in a poetic luminous set of images that allows us to see the world differently for a moment. An instance where art can change our lives. I look to the circus for this level of experience now, as I did in the 1970s.

This year I have seen three Australian companies address contemporary political issues in ways that have been inspiring. Honour Bound, written and directed by Nigel Jamieson, and Smaller, Poorer, Cheaper, devised by Simon Yates, Jo Lancaster and Mozes of acrobat, are two powerful shows that appear as part of the 2006 Melbourne Fringe Festival. Both draw on the practice of alternative circus and contemporary dance. Both provide precise observations of contemporary politics through physical performance.

Without the performed life of the 1970s perhaps political commentary is finding its way into the circus performance? Perhaps the times demand it.
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