Jay Gilligan’s Blog

The Ministry has gotten really active again with the return of Drew!
Rather than a video from me, I’m posting a bit of reading for the week from Jay Gilligan. This clip from his blog about Michael Moschen and the difference between European and American technique is interesting:

Jay GilliganWhat I really wanted to talk about is something I find to be an extremely (Xtreme!) curious difference between American and European juggling cultures. I’ve noticed that in general, American jugglers tend to think in terms of patterns that repeat, usually on both sides, and Europeans have a more asymmetrical style. Maybe this doesn’t seem like such a big crisis but I know that in my own work it’s a constant battle. And I think its also super interesting that this trend continues quite strongly even today, as compared to when I started juggling about 20 years ago. Once I started looking, examples are all over the place.

Juggling Insanity and Unkown Juggling (I probably messed up the capitolizations there) are two websites that claim to generate never before seen juggling tricks. In both cases, for the most part and at least in the beginning, the videos showed patterns that were looped and were executed on ‘both sides.’ There is certainly nothing wrong with this but I know when I was starting out and tried to make up a trick it would always end up as a looped left/right hand pattern. When I started travelling overseas and meeting other jugglers I became slightly frustrated at my inability to make short sequences where each hand did a different thing for each throw.

Jay GilliganI guess I’ve talked about this before, but this gets into the larger concept of American juggling vs. European style. I had the American thing down, if only because that’s where I was from. Since then I’ve had to very consciously study and develop my brain to work a bit in the European way, which to go further with the definition includes tons of starts and stops, lots of placements and carries, and rarely doing more than 3 or 4 throws of the same pattern. And to take this all a step further, I believe the future of juggling is combining these two styles, which turns out to be the European asymmetry but with throwing all the time. The only person I’ve seen doing this is Saku who just released the Juggledoll DVD. He’s been working in this way for some years now and its completely crazy.

I had the pleasure to perform in the same gala as Michael Moschen in Paris 5 years ago and I noticed he also still works in this American juggler style! Even though his work is based more on dance aesthetics, the way he composes a piece is totally like an American juggler. The patterns repeat, on each side, he does one trick and shows one concept with the objects and then moves on to the next. Pick nearly any of his pieces and its hard to find a ‘chorus’ that repeats in the choreography, or one hand doing something that the other doesn’t eventually copy. What sparked this essay most recently was watching Wes Peden’s trick of the day videos on YouTube. Actually it was specifically the Ringreen video where I noticed him inventing tricks and then either looping the pattern or at least doing the technique with both hands.

I was trying to think why this difference in cultures existed and only have a few guesses. First, perhaps the culture in Europe is more geared twords performing and in America its more of a hobby, or dare I say, sport. This could mean in Europe people are more concerned with whole routines rather than just individual tricks. They might then spend more time looking at the larger picture, putting only a tiny bit of one trick in as it helps the flow. American culture might focus more on each pattern as there is no need to worry about an audience getting bored quickly. One thing I know for sure growing up is that I was always taught to learn things on both sides. I got this advice from everyone I met. If you could start 5 clubs from your left hand, learn to start it from your right. This might be considered more of a sport mentality, since the best juggler could obviously do everything with both hands. Indeed, its this idea of practicing the ‘pure’ art of juggling technique untouched by performance concerns, that led me to focus on running patterns for X (yes, X, but in this case not Xtreme) amount of catches and repititions. Try to watch any IJA competition video with a vocal and snide Scandanavian juggler and the first thing you’ll hear about is how much the juggler is repeating patterns and being boring by doing too many catches (ok, maybe not the first thing, but it will come up eventually).

Interesting to consider. Dive back into the blog and look at some of the recent juggling videos. You can see what he means.

3 thoughts on “Jay Gilligan’s Blog”

  1. 3 Juggling posts in a row…We’ll get a reputation.
    Good Jay Blog.
    He invented a poi trick you know, and he worked on it “American style”, both poi at the same time.

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