If you juggle at all, or want to juggle, regular practice is certainly an on-going requirement. Whether you practice daily or weekly depends on your plans for juggling. You may enjoy juggling as a hobby, you may juggle as a performer, or you may wish to use juggling to convey a message.
There are several fine books available with juggling routines already written to convey a Christian message. I used routines from books when I started and occasionally still do, but most of my routines I’ve developed myself. Quoting from a recent Conjurer article “the best routines are personal ones”, and that’s what has worked for me. I’d like to share a few thoughts and hope it may help you.
As a Christian, I have several disciplines I need to apply in my life. Bible reading, prayer, worship, church involvement and sharing my faith are all basics. As I am about my daily life I often write notes to myself, an idea that comes to mind about a juggling routine or a teaching topic that really interests me, or a Bible principle that I’d really like to share (ideas from the Holy Spirit I believe). It’s not unusual that I get an idea during my quiet time with the Lord or during congregational worship at church. Later it’s always best that I add the idea to a notebook or computer file, for further development. I recall a performer who taught a class saying “the difference between a hobbyist juggler and a professional is a 99 cent notebook”. Amen to that. Write down your ideas, because you’ll forget them later; even drawing a sketch is helpful. If you get a good idea when you are near falling asleep, get up and jot down a note (it really does happen, more often than you think).
Take time to intentionally just play around with your favorite juggling props (not the same activity as practicing juggling tricks). What does the prop look like? What does it remind you of? What can an audience imagine it to be? If I attach something to a juggling prop, what does it look like then? When I’m developing a teaching topic, like early American history for example, I can imagine a club as a musket, a flute, or the torch on the statue of Liberty.
I pray then as well. If it’s truly your heart’s desire to share a message, ask Him for ideas. Have a pad and pen next to you during your play time and write down ideas you get. Occasionally, ask family members who see you, or kids who may watch you, what they think your playing around “looks like”, what it reminds them of. Kids come up with good ideas that we are often too serious to think of. We want it done fast, but good ideas don’t arrive on a schedule. It’s understandable, most of our adult life we’re expected to be serious, to get things done on time. But the best material for performing comes from taking time to relax, or being silly and creative. As you are developing a routine, with patter (words) that go along with the juggling, write them down word for word, as you would say it. Personalize it. You can always improve it later (and you will).
Using juggling as a tool is not like using magic, where you can look over a wide variety of tricks at a fine dealer table each year (or online), subsequently buy a few tricks, then diligently practice and present them.
Your juggling tools to work with are more specific and initially more limited. The three most traditional props are balls, clubs and rings. The next most popular are sticks, diabolo and cigar boxes. Expanding further include such tools as spinning balls, hats and rola bola. Some quick-start tools, which require less practice, include scarves, poi, balance feathers and spinning plates. Now expand your toolbox by playing with similarly-shaped tools (eg. plunger, machete, oranges, eggs, skateboard, etc) which really help your presentation become more interesting to an audience. Take time to stroll through the hardware store, or the pet store, and always the toy store. Review books and videos from the library of other performers, jugglers and non-jugglers. See what performers did 50, 100 or 200 years ago. It’s a great learning experience. Take a storytelling class to help you in developing patter. Lastly, I believe humor and action are important ingredients to convey a message.
After you get a routine to a place where it is “almost ready”, go ahead and try it out somewhere on an audience. The added pressure of a scheduled date forces you to complete it. Afterward you will undoubtedly want to improve it anyway. You honestly can’t wait until a new routine is “really ready”, because that means you’ll never finish it, or it will be years before you finish it (subsequently you know you’re going to tweak it again anyway). I know. I’m a good procrastinator. I’ve got many good routines in my notebook or in my head which I ought to finish someday. But it’s Sunday afternoon and the Lazy Boy chair looks so inviting right now. Zzzzz.
By Gary Luber