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Circus Lexicon

Balancing, Manoeuvring, Concentrating

The Art of Juggling feat. Stefan Sing

Witchcraft, circus, vaudeville, meditation – who hasn’t read the title yet and already thinks of juggling? Nobody really knows how long the art of juggling has in fact existed. During the 6th century, however, jugglers were already a prominent part of fairs and festivals. Even if the guests often watched the performances sceptically, as many thieves and vagrants tried their hand at juggling. Clerics often accused the artists of loose morals or even witchcraft.

By the way, the word juggler comes from the Latin term “ioculator”. It can be translated to “joker”. The German word “Jux” comes from the same root: “iocus”, Latin for “fun”.

During the 11th century, jugglers were often travelling as multi-talents with minstrels or entertainment artists to amuse and entertain the nobility.

It was not until industrialisation and the founding of the first modern circus by the circus’s ancestor Philip Astley in 1768 when jugglers found professional work. From then on, juggling was no longer separable from circus and vaudeville. Jugglers often performed little tricks in front of the curtain while the stage was transformed for the next act.

Foto: David Konecny

Juggling also has a place in the modern contemporary circus and has graced the Chamäleon stage on several occasions as well. The art form not ‘only’ comprises the repeated throwing and catching of various objects, but in a broader sense also disciplines such as Diabolo, or poi spinning.

Stefan Sing, who started juggling at the age of 12, has already performed on stage at the Chamäleon many times. For him, juggling represents a perfect symbol of life.

“It is a constant dancing around and trying to harmonise all the demands so that you can get through life well. An elementary aspect of both life and juggling is failure. To affirm failure and learn from it in order to make a new attempt with a greater trove of experience. To be patient and submit to the demands and always start again.

In improvisation, there are often moments when everything is just perfect. When I’m happy about it, I drop out of those moments of perfection. It is exactly the same in life, do not judge, surrender, stay patient and do not give up. Then everything is and will be fine.”

Besides juggling as an art form, there are also juggling games whereby several jugglers compete against each other. In joggling, for example, the aim is to cover a distance as quickly as possible while juggling. The world record holder for juggling three objects over a distance of 100 m is Owen Morse in an incredible 11.68 (!) seconds. In Combat, on the other hand, the aim is to prevent the other competitor from continuing to juggle while you continue to juggle yourself. For example, clubs can be knocked away or rings can be taken away.

Especially in the outdoor area, fire and light juggling are very popular. In vaudeville, it is often gentleman juggling that can be admired. It is impossible to imagine the artistry of the 1920s without the use of everyday objects instead of common props. They were and are juggled or balanced.

For Stefan Sing, however, a juggler is not necessarily a “conjuror and jester with a red nose and three camels behind him. How many balls can you keep in the air? Can you juggle knives as well? And how about with fire?” Sure, there are those also, but he sees it as his life’s work “to make juggling become dance theatre. It is not about keeping as many objects in the air as possible. It is not about striving for the technically most difficult if the expression suffers in the process. It is not about placing yourself in danger or about being funny in the process (which is quite possible). How can I use my technique to communicate ‘something’? And what can this ‘something’ be?”

Stefan Sing sitzt im Scheinwerferlicht einer Bühne und fängt Jonglagebälle.

But how does a juggler like Stefan Sing prepare for an upcoming performance or a new creation? “It always depends on what projects and performances are coming up. Technique is not really done any more, it’s simply there after more than 30 years of juggling. A lot of research is required, which depends on the current creation. Research very often involves improvisations that are recorded on video and later dissected. In general, improvisation with different parameters is my main type of juggling – whether it is to warm up, to discover possibilities, or just for fun. One elementary part of the ‘training’ is yoga and meditation, which forms the basis for everything else.”

Through the rhythmic, constant cycle of catching and throwing the ball, juggling has a particularly meditative effect.

It also stimulates brain activity, compacts the grey matter in the brain and improves peripheral vision. Naturally, juggling also improves balance.

Especially in times when you might be at home a bit more than usual, juggling can be a wonderful new challenge. Just grab three balls and off you go!

    Leon Benzerari

    Guest Author

    Leon Benzerari
    Guest Author

    Leon Benzerari is currently doing an apprenticeship as an event manager at the Chamäleon Berlin. He combines his passions for circus and writing informative texts in the Living Lexicon. At home he likes to carve wood.