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Forums > Social Discussion > IJA Festival/WJF: Indy article and comment

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Spanner
BRONZE Member since Feb 2003

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Posted:I read this in yesterday's Independent newspaper (UK):

Juggling world in a spin over future of the 'sport'

Here is the accompanying comment:

 Written by: Charles Nevin, The Independent


Up in the air

This eternal human impulse to organise everything can be a bit of a pain. Hardly a day passes without a humourless attempt to impose order on some free-spirited activity. It's only 150 years or so, for example, since what had been a happy kick-about was given all these rules and began its descent towards taking itself more seriously than life and death.

And now, as we report today, there is a movement to organise juggling into a serious, Olympic sport. Juggling! Can there be a finer expression of frivolity? Why is no Roman orgy complete without a juggler tossing some balls or blazing brands about? Because juggling is about abandon and defying rules, particularly of any kind of gravity.

So, currently, we have a teenage Russian brother and sister who hold various world records for catching but have "no interest in show business or comedy patter". What of that noble, sustaining tradition of imagination represented by such as the Great Cinquevalli, who juggled with cannonballs and held a man over his head with the other arm when he was not being the Human Billiard Table? What of all the other speciality acts, such as Derrick Rosaire's Wonder Horse, Betty Kaye's Pekinese Pets, and that chap who used to sing "Mule train" while bashing his head with a tin tray? Did you know, too, that the matchless W C Fields, began as a comedy juggler?

Was it all for nothing? Yes, that was its point, apart from entertaining us and feeding them. And why did jugglers introduce unicycles, comedy patter, chainsaws and lots of burning things? Because, without them, juggling is flaming boring. We say: drop it!



I don't know whether this has already been reported via the usual juggling media but I've quoted this newspaper anyway exactly because the Independent isn't such a source so it interests me to read what has been written by audience rather than performer.

I've just typed most of that from the paper copy as not all of it is available online without subscription. So please don't shoot the messenger (or bash my head with a tin tray) but please do comment smile


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Mr Majestik
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Posted:i read the link and everything seemed fine and dandy.

i think the comment about Olympic Juggling being Frivilousis, to be frank, stupid. if people want to put the time and effort to be in competitions then it certainly warrants the recognition of a sporting body like the IOC.

i play some footbag and from my view the situation with footbag is what Juggling is becoming. FootBag is the proper name for 'hackie sack'(which is a brand of footbag) and while you can go anywhere in the world and see people happily kicking a hemp bag around and having fun there are also people who train at it regularly and get insanely good, then go in world wide competitions.

the thing is the Footbag situation is really not all that big a deal, some people like to kick with friends and some people like to be insanely good. today (as i do most saturdays) i went and played footbag with a very talented friend who always encourages me to play more, but i chose some juggling as well just because i enjoy both. he was fine with that and continued practicing and we even just had a regular kick without too many tricks or practicing new moves, there were no problems and everyone had fun. next year he'll be hosting the Australian footbag championships and i'll no doubt go along and help him out, even though i dont particularly like to compete. and he's said previously that even though people are competing they'll still be house sharing and going out and doing other things as friends. just because people are serious about competitions doesnt mean they cant be friendly and layed back as well.


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Spanner
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Posted:smile



Indeed: the link reports business as usual and it's nothing a lot of us don't know already, but my focus is upon the comment afterwards.



So, before the thread continues, I'd just like to clarify that I didn't post it to extend the existing discussions here about juggling and related arts as an Olympic sport and so on. This is about public perception of our debate as well as our performance.



Some of us only entertain ourselves and our peers with these arts and the debate which they provoke. Many of us additionally make it our business to entertain others, but when that debate also reaches our audience as in this example, what can we learn from their perspective of it?


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Mr Majestik
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Posted:i wouldnt neccissarily call a reporter our audience. he seems more like a movie reviewer that critiques what he can and makes everyone think he's an idiot tongue

regarding what he DOES say, it seems to me he is happy with the lowest common denominator and doesnt care if technical ability is sacraficed for showmanship. personally i think a balance is best, with the performer always striving to better themselves where they can.


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coleman
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Posted:thanks for the heads up spanner hug



there were two articles in the independent that day - the one above on p.36, the one below on p.31.



just for completeness, this is the text from the other article:



 Written by: John Hiscock in Los Angeles, page 31



Juggling world in a spin over future of the 'sport'



The annual festival of the International Juggling Association, now under way in Portland, Oregon, provides a forum for the members to show off their tricks, performing with clubs, balls and anything else they can keep in the air.



This year, the festival has a visitor, a world-class juggler named Jason Garfield, who, despite his skills, is viewed with suspicion and hostility by some of the 600 jugglers attending.



Garfield's crime has been to form the rival World Juggling Federation (WJF), which eschews tricks in favour of technical skills and competitive tournaments and threatened to cause a bitter and perhaps permanent split among America's jugglers.



To the outsider, juggling does not seem a pastime likely to breed controversy and lead to vitriolic disputes, yet since Garfield formed the WJF three years ago the juggling world has been in turmoil.



The entertainers of the International Juggling Association (IJA) had described him as a dictator who was crushing the creativity out of juggling' he retaliated by calling them hippies and hacks.



But his presence at the festival is being seen by some as a conciliatory gesture that will go a long way towards healing the rivalry that has existed between the two organisations that hold such different views of the same activity.



"It's more a difference of opinion as to what juggling is all about," said Joyce Howard, a board member of the IJA. "We are getting closer together. The fact that Jason is here at our festival is an indication that although we are rival organisations we are starting to work together. He is more focused on the sport of juggling while we are focused on the artistic and hobby side of it."



The IJA, which for decades has been the primary body, promotes juggling as a form of entertainment' Garfield's WJF is dedicated to juggling as a sport and he hopes it will eventually become an Olympic event.



In WJF juggling contests, contestants are judged on the difficulty of their routines and the technical skill with which they execute them. The object is not to entertain, but to win. "They are very technical," Ms Howard said. "They don't give points for performance or artistry as we do' in fact those things count against the juggler."



Garfield, shaven-headed, muscular, and at 31 a professional juggler for 20 years, concedes the aims of the two organisations are different but maintains he holds no ill will towards his rivals. "We are different organisations with different goals," he said. "I want to see people competing as athletes. My organisation is more sport-based and theirs is geared towards entertainment, although a lot of people like both. Juggling is whatever you want it to be' it's done in many different ways. Some people think it should be done only the way they do it while others are more broad-minded and can see both sides of the argument."



Garfield has already taken giant steps towards making juggling a big-time professional sport by persuading the ESPN TV network to broadcast the first two WJF championships in 2004 and 2005. His fledgling organisation has also had a major boost by the membership of two Russian juggling prodigies named Vova and Olga Galchenko, who are being flaunted as the best jugglers in the world.



Vova, 18, and Olga, 15, grew up in the small industrial city of Penza, about 400 miles from Moscow. They began juggling for fun but it soon became a serious business for them.



They left Russia three years ago and moved to the US, first staying with a circus performer they had met in Russia, then moving to Los Angeles. Garfield met the Galchenkos shortly after they arrived in America and became their unpaid coach. Since then, they have learnt to speak nearly perfect English, performed around the world and won major competitions.



They hold the world record for two people juggling 10 clubs between them and making 378 catches. They also hold the records for 11 clubs (152 catches) and 12 clubs (54 catches).



Stage juggling depends on making tricks look difficult, but the Galchenkos make everything look easy, prompting the magician and juggler Penn Jillette to say: "The two of them are not just the best in the world, they are the best there has ever been."



They are ideal recruits for Garfield's WJF because they have no interest in showbusiness or comedy patter' they are focused solely on technical prowess.





he kind of misunderstood the overall relationship between juggling organisations and also misses the fact that garfield was training the galchenko's in the u.s. before he created the wjf but there you go - reporters very rarely get anywhere close to complete accuracy shrug



i think this is all positive - its rare to get juggling in the press at all and discussion of the internal politics of the pastime are almost unheard of.



big up the indy i say biggrin



maybe now is the time to mention to the paper that the wjf's first event outside of vegas and the u.s. will be in nottingham at next year's british juggling convention... ubbrollsmile





cole. x


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mcp
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Posted:At least the WJF is taking steps to live up to it's name of world juggling federation. Unlike the 'international' Juggling association.

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Spanner
BRONZE Member since Feb 2003

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Posted:Cheers Cole. Did you copy and paste that or did you have to type it out? It wasn't in the Independent Portfolio when I posted the link so thank you hug

Yeah, I think it's positive. Maybe they were unaware of WJF's 2007 UK presence but I found it interesting that the writers didn't state that the WJF would cause a split among jugglers anywhere other than within America, despite it's "worldliness" wink and I do find myself feeling grateful that the Independent didn't assume that, or that kind of rivalry, in juggling in general smile


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coleman
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Posted:seems this is very likely to be a spin-off/result of the time article - *lots* of similarities, including the headline...



 Written by: Time Magazine



Up In the Air

Time, U.S. Edition, Sec. Arts, Vol. 168, Issue. 4, p 54 24-07-2006

By Lev Grossman / Agoura Hills



---------------------------------------------------------------------------



How two teenage prodigies came to America and stepped right into a battle over the future of juggling



The world record for two people juggling 10 clubs between them is 378 catches. It is currently held by two Russian siblings living in the U.S. named Vova and Olga Galchenko. The Galchenkos also hold the world record for 11 clubs (152 catches) and 12 clubs (54 catches). The ability to juggle at this level is highly unusual, especially at their ages--Vova is 18, Olga 15. But then again, the Galchenkos are very unusual people.



Vova (short for Vladimir) is shaggy haired and soft spoken. Olga has big eyes and a big smile and is a little hyperactive--she sometimes breaks into a soft-shoe dance routine to keep herself entertained. They're an unlikely duo to be at the center of a controversy that has divided the passionate, arcane and exclusive community of high-level professional juggling, the kind most people rarely see outside of Cirque du Soleil.



Growing up poor in the small industrial city of Penza, about 400 miles outside Moscow, Vova and Olga started juggling for fun in an after-school program. Pretty soon it got to be more than a hobby. The Galchenkos are easygoing and tons of fun to be around, but when it's time to work, something shifts behind their eyes and they get weirdly intense and laser-focused. "They have personalities that are very, very unpleasantly obsessive," says magician and juggler Penn Jillette (he means that with nothing but affection). "When I was around them practicing, they would do stuff that no one had ever done and then say, 'That sucks.'"



The obsessiveness paid off. "If you're talking about club passing, the two of them together are the best in the world," Jillette says. "Not just the best in the world. The best there has ever been." Standing up close to the Galchenkos when they juggle is like watching gravity get turned off. There's a moment of stillness, and then, with no obvious cue from either of them, the air is full of flying clubs, spinning in intricate orbits. The Galchenkos' juggling is beautiful--a kind of kinetic sculpture, a bravura display of human determination bringing order to the chaotic physical world. (For video footage of the Galchenkos' juggling, visit time.com/juggling.)



The rest of the Galchenkos' world has been plenty chaotic. In 2003, thinking they would have more juggling opportunities in the U.S., they moved to New Hampshire, staying with a circus artist they had met while performing in Russia. They came alone: no mother, no father, just the two of them. Vova was 15, and Olga was 12. Neither spoke English.



Since then they have performed around the world and won major competitions. They have learned near perfect English. After some bouncing around, they now live with a generous juggling aficionado in a mansion about an hour outside Los Angeles. And they have acquired a mentor, a brilliant, bombastic, shaven-headed, muscle-bound juggler named Jason Garfield.



This brings us to the controversy. The world of lite juggling can be a political and even somewhat catty place. For decades the primary juggling organization has been the International Juggling Association (IJA). The IJA is committed to juggling as a form of entertainment: juggling with friends for fun, juggling to music, juggling by clowns. If you have ever seen juggler-comedian Chris Bliss's epic three-ball interpretation of the Beatles' Carry That Weight, you get the idea.



In 2003, Garfield, 31, a world-class juggler himself, founded a rival organization called the World Juggling Federation (WJF), dedicated to promoting juggling as a sport, not a sideshow. There are no clowns in the WJF. In WJF events, contestants are judged on the difficulty of their routines and the technical skill with which they execute them, and nothing else. The object is not to entertain but to win. "I wanted to see people competing like athletes," Garfield says. "Kind of like an X Games for juggling."



Feelings between the two camps, the entertainers and the sport jugglers, can run a little high. ("They all get really crazy about it," says Olga, rolling her eyes. "It's insane.") The entertainers call Garfield a dictator who's crushing the creativity out of juggling. He calls them hippies and hacks. "Both can coexist, I think, very easily," says Kim Laird, an IJA board member. "The WJF right now is the new kid on the block, and some people feel their territory's being invaded." Garfield too is a little befuddled by the ire, though he doesn't seem to mind the attention. "It's just juggling. It's surprising to me that people get so mad about it."



His dream is for juggling to become a big-time professional sport, like ice skating--or at least a lucrative fad, like poker. And he has made a start: ESPN and ESPN2 broadcast the first two WJF championships in 2004 and '05, a first for competitive juggling. The next event is in August. The IJA holds its own festival--the '06 festival is this week in Portland, Ore.--but so far it remains a relatively low-profile affair.



Garfield met the Galchenkos shortly after they arrived in the U.S. and immediately offered to coach them pro bono. They're the perfect poster siblings for the WJF: peerless, purely technical jugglers with little interest in show biz or comedy patter. Moreover, stage juggling is about making tricks look difficult, and the Galchenkos' natural gracefulness makes everything look easy. "We're probably the top team in the world, ever, technically, as far as juggling goes," Vova says and adds ruefully: "But we're probably the bottom team when it comes to presenting it."



The Galchenkos may well be the future of juggling, but right now they have a lot more than clubs to juggle. They have little money. They haven't seen their parents in three years. They have legal troubles too. Olga has successfully filed an Extraordinary Ability petition that will allow her to stay in the country for now, but Vova's hasn't been approved yet. He'll have to go back to Russia in October, at least temporarily.



In the meantime, he sometimes gets his host to drive him out to Venice Beach, where if you're lucky you can see one of the greatest technical jugglers in history performing on a street corner. "It's kind of an entry-level juggling job, I guess," he says. He's even working up a little patter to go with his act. "I mean, I don't make up a story," says Vova. "Most people who perform, they usually make up stories." Then again, most people don't have a story like the Galchenkos.







cole. x


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NYC


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Posted:If this was my classroom this would immidiately degrade into the classic "Cheerleading isn't a sport" and the occational radical "Neither is Golf" arguement.

Frankly, I think it's more easily settled by the Geek/Jock exclusion principle. If geeks do it, it's not a sport.

That's why I don't do sport, because if I did it, my geekyness would automatically disqualify it from being a sport.

Though I don't juggle I can safely say that the Geek quotient is clearly too high for it to be classified as a sport. wink wink wink

Sorry, carry on.


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Mr Majestik
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Posted: Written by: NYC


If this was my classroom this would immidiately degrade into the classic "Cheerleading isn't a sport" and the occational radical "Neither is Golf" arguement.

Frankly, I think it's more easily settled by the Geek/Jock exclusion principle. If geeks do it, it's not a sport.

That's why I don't do sport, because if I did it, my geekyness would automatically disqualify it from being a sport.

Though I don't juggle I can safely say that the Geek quotient is clearly too high for it to be classified as a sport. wink wink wink

Sorry, carry on.



ubblol i'd agree, i think many people juggle because they dont want to play sport with egotistical jocks. wink


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