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Old 09-07-11, 12:43 AM   #1
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Default Rolla Bolla learning materials

Hi all.

Can anyone tell me where I can find tutorials for learning rolla bolla? Books, dvds or online videos are all good.

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Old 09-07-11, 06:08 PM   #3
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Thanks Mike!

Its my fault for not being specific, but I actually after info on learnimg to do stacks of three rolls
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Old 10-29-11, 10:24 AM   #4
le pire
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Default Stacks


I do the 5 stack in my show (on moving cruise ships-- UGH!) so here are my tips:

The cylinders I use are the Unicycle/Voltige. I have the JugglArts aluminums and they are fine, but heavy. The upside to the heaviness is they move slower, the downside is they are too heavy for travel. Also wipeouts are LOUD. They are also expensive-- I paid almost $1000. The U/V were around $300. Of course, you can make your own rollers from PVC. The spacers are the difficult part-- you will have to have the ends absolutely flat and the way to do this is putting them in a lathe. Finding a good machinist to do this can be a pain.

Ok, the process for a three stack:

First question: which 3 stack? space-roller-spacer or roller-spacer-roller?


Good answer, here we go:



Step1- Be able to freemount the rolla bolla

Step2- Be able to stand on it with the roller centered under the board and it does not move an inch from left to right.

Step3- put a spacer on the ground and a roller on top of the spacer and a board on the roller. Have something in front of you to grab onto incase you lose your balance. A chinese pole is great, but if you're not in a circus school, probably not an option. If there is a basketball court near you, using the pole for the net can work. Ideally you need something to grab onto, but isnot any kind of wall in front of you because you want to "visually anchor" onto a fixed point some distance in front of you.

Step 4- put the roller on the ground and put the spacer on top of it and the the board on the spacer.

before moving on to step 5 you should be able to freemount step 3 & 4 and hold it each of these for 2 minutes. The hard part is not edging forward of backward, and this comes from being perfectly stable at the ankles.

Step 5- Spacer-roller-spacer board. Go for it. Don't tilt! The balance here comes ENTIRELY from your hips and you need to keep them 100% level. Conditioning excercises for this are all variety of leg lifts and keagels and definately lower back excericses (like supermans).

Step 6 - Free mount this.

Step 7 - turn the roller to go FRONT to BACK and return to step 1.


Roller Spacer Roller

-you should already be proficient in single roller facing side to side and single roller front to back AND with a bowling ball instead of a roller.

-Step 1 Bowling ball. Get a new, unweighted ball that doesn't have holes drilled in it. Sure you can go to goodwill and pick up a ball for $5 but it will have several problems because the ball was meant for bowling, not circus. There is a big lead disc down at the bottom of the ball and the holes are at the top. Since you can't put your board on the holes (too jaunty) you'll have to turn them to the side. Now a 1-14 pound disc will also be on the side of the ball and this will cause you to list severely (if you are a beginner) and will be a pain in the butt if you can already do it. An unweighted ball can be bought at a bowling alley for around $40-$60. They weight 6lbs (i think) and are meant for children. They come without holes drilled in them which is perfect.

Step2- Find something to grab onto (see step 3 of prev lesson) put a mattress or matt or cushion of somekind on the ground in front of it. Put your bowling ball on it and put your board on the ball. Go for it. Keep the board level using your ankles and stay centered facing forward using your hips.

Step3- What you want to do is slowly (i.e. day by day) decrease the thickness of the matt underneath the bowling ball. The thicker the matt, the more the bottom balance point is diminished (with the bowling ball their are 2 balance points, the top & the bottom) making it easier for you to focus on one point at a time.

Step4- in the end you should be able to freemount the rolla bowling ball, stand up, stay facing forward and not drift. Juggling on it is a nice touch. I think this trick took me about a month to learn, and then another month to get it solid enough to perform and then another 2 years before I wasn't terrified to do the trick everytime I got onstage.

Back to R-S-R

Step1 and beyond

The first question is which way do you want to stack them? Here's how I do it: side to side roller on bottom, spacer and front to back roller on top. (I've seen it done the opposite way plenty of times on YouTube, although everyone I've met who does the stacks does it the same way I do).

For the R-S-R, after you've mastered S-R-S in both directions & the bowling ball, you just have to get up on it and fail LOTS of times before you start seeing incrimental success. Have you're bar in front of you to grab.

Mathematically the R-S-R (and the 5 stack) is a 360 degree balance, but inorder to do it, it helps to NOT think of it that way but instead of an X and Y axis. Your hips are controling the side to side axis and your ankles are controling the front to back. What you are really trying to feel and be aware of is the alignment of all three cylinders all the way to the floor so you can make the appropriate corrections.

If you're learning this trick I'm going to assume you're a juggler and can probably balance a club on your chin/nose/forehead. In that balance your goal is to make your corrective moves as tiny as possible and isolate the balance to your neck muscles. It's the same with the cylinder stacks except here you use your hips and ankles.

Also, stand up straight. The natural tendency seems to be to stay crouched but this actually makes it so much harder. Think about keeping your body alignned all the way to the top of your head.

One of the most difficult things to correct in the cylinder stacks is the slow drift of the cylinders out of alignment. It seems to come from sinking too much of your weight into the cylinders. Slowly dragging them back into alignment is really, really, really tough. It's best to just not let them get their in the first place.

Visual anchoring (picking a fixed point to stare at to help your balance)- for the 3 cylinder stacks (all of them) i can visually anchor anywhere. I can look straight out at the audience or turn my head and look around. For the five stack I look at the ground at about a 45 degree angle out. Different people have different preferences. Some people look straight down, a very few look straight out. You'll feel this one out, however keep in mind that it's best to show the audience as much of your face as possible at all times.

I hope this helps & good luck!

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Old 10-29-11, 10:48 AM   #5
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Default Great info!

Thanks Etienne! Just picked up a 3 stack from Voltige. Hoping to get comfortable on them by early next year.
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Old 10-29-11, 12:13 PM   #6
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Great to hear from you Rob! It's kind of amazing to me how few of us are still left performing.

I forgot to mention in the last post info about the actual board.

Although I am a fan of most of u/v equipment, the board that comes with their rolla bollas I find to be crappy. The rubber on the bottom is kind of slippery and the boards are a weird kind of particle board and I even split one in two. They are pretty light weight which is good, however. Also, different people have different tastes in equipment so this is one where you would make your own judgement.

Personally I make my own boards out of birch plywood and the rubber I put on the bottom is actually belting used for haybailers. This makes the board somewhat heavier, but it is indestructable and the grip is incredible. I no longer put any kind of grip tape on the top of the board as it would destroy shoes and made tricks where you slide your feet on the board a lot harder.

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Old 11-06-11, 03:37 AM   #7
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Hi Etienne!

Thanks so much for the help! I have found it impossible to find step by step guides to rolla bolla stacks so you have been a great help! I use the voltige, I also have a juggleart spacer but I dont like its weight. anyhow, thanks again.
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Old 11-10-11, 09:03 AM   #8
Lee Nelson
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Hey there, I have been doing 5 stack for a couple of years and found your breakdown of the elements really interesting as it made me consider and understand some of the things I had been doing instinctively.
I was practicing today and I realized I have a couple of issues with my technique I have never really been sure about.

1. Feet placement. I kind of point my toes outwards not directly forewards. Is this the best way?
2. Knees, I change between slightly bent and dead straight. My experiments today told me that straight legs made for a better balance. Thoughts?

On another note...
I always look at the base of my stack when I am doing 5 but can look anywhere for all the other variations.
I find it insanely helpful to always concentrate on keeping my torso directly centred over the "line" of balance regardless of where my feet might be.
I have broken a Unicycle board doing jumps.
I use the unicycle stack.

Any help appreciated.
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