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A Short Introduction To Contact Juggling

Updated on November 29, 2013

Mesmerizing And Awe Inspiring, Performed With The Appearance Of Effortless Grace

I am the self proclaimed most uncoordinated person alive, so I have a deep appreciation for people who can use their bodies to do beautiful things such as Contact Juggling.

Contact juggling involves the flawless manipulation of one or more balls made of acrylic (usually) that are in contact with the body as opposed to being tossed in the air as you might expect for anything described as "juggling".

I started contact juggling when I was newly on maternity leave about a year ago. I needed something to focus on to keep me sane during a huge transition in my life.

I'm not particularly proficient, but I can do a few moves which I learned (initially) using one of my daughters toy balls and Youtube. To be honest I really find the repetitive practice to be extremely relaxing. It's a great activity for those tiny pockets of "me time" that I find for myself at random intervals throughout the day. I've also greatly improved the dexterity in my left (non dominant) hand by forcing myself to practice equally on both sides.

Below I have chosen a few key youtube video clips displaying performances and tutorials. I have also included links to resources for further reading.

Had You Heard Of Contact Juggling Prior To Visiting This Page?

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Baoding Balls - Palm Rolling -The Grand Daddy Of Modern Contact Juggling

Contact juggling didn't just spring up in the 20th century. Aspects of what is known as contact juggling today have been manifesting in the performing arts for hundreds of years. The short video clip below displays the roots of contact juggling with baoding balls in China.

Contact Juggling, Labyrinth (Michael Moschen)

Contact juggling was highlighted in the 1986 film Labyrinth when, on a couple of occasions David Bowie's character, Jareth rolls a crystal ball around his hands with effortless grace while delivering a bit of dialogue.

This is the performance where many people who were born in the 80's and 90's will instantly recognize contact juggling, except now they will have a name for what they're seeing.

The thing that a lot of people don't realize is that David Bowie is just standing there trying not to look awkward while Michael Moschen's arms are doing all of the performing around his body. Michael couldn't actually see what he was doing so this is all the more impressive when you consider the fact that the stunt was being performed blind and at a contorted angle!

Have a look at the video below to refresh your memory and gain some insider perspective on how the stunt was performed with another man's arms.

Purchase Labyrinth Through Amazon

Labyrinth (Anniversary Edition)
Labyrinth (Anniversary Edition)

Were you hit with a tiny twinge of nostalgia just there? :)

This is one of those rare occasions where the DVD extras are absolutely brilliant for a fan of the film. They just add so many new facets of awe and appreciation!

 

Contact Juggling, Michael Moschen

The video below showcases a short routine by the same juggler as above featuring more balls and a more complex performance. It is very captivating to watch.

Michael Moschen is primarily responsible for bringing this beautiful art form to the main stream with his routine entitled "light" which he first performed in 1985.

Contact Juggling, Kelvin Kalvus

This is a longer video with a full routine by Kelvin Kalvus. It is my favorite contact juggling clip on YouTube. You can see clearly how the performance has evolved to combine even more moves into a single routine with a bit of magician's flair.

Free Contact Juggling Video Tutorials

Besides being a great resource for contact juggling performance videos YouTube is also a wonderful resource for contact juggling tutorials. I've even picked up a few tricks myself watching them, though I must admit I am still quite far from proficient. As with anything else, practice is key!

Additional Reading

Contact Juggling By James Ernest

Contact Juggling
Contact Juggling

This is a book by the man who coined the term "Contact Juggling".

It is extremely well written and the illustrations inside are really helpful.

I am an absolute novice but I've found my copy of this book to be an extremely valuable resource in addition to whatever I can dig up on youtube.

 

Buy Your Own Balls For Contact Juggling

Clear Acrylic Contact Juggling Ball - 2.75" - 70mm
Clear Acrylic Contact Juggling Ball - 2.75" - 70mm

There are various sizes of crystal acrylic balls available for contact juggling.

I have a 65mm one and it's just beautiful to manipulate. Having said that, larger balls are definitely easier to handle, so if I was going to purchase another one I would probably size up.

 

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    • WhiteIsland profile image

      WhiteIsland 4 years ago

      I was mesmerized watching Labyrinth the first time, because of the handwork. I learned later (when we had it on DVD) about the juggler behind Jareth, which does make it incredibly impressive. :) I've seen a few contact jugglers in real life, at the Renaissance Festival and similar places, and I still can't walk past without stopping to gape at their skills. :) Great lens - I like the variety of information you provided on the subject.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I'm dizzy! Wow, what a lovely lens and great subject. Nice to see David Bowie and, nice to see so many contact juggling on the one page. Dazzling. Thank you! I love it.

    • profile image

      DebW07 4 years ago

      Interesting and well done! I'd never heard of contact juggling prior to this.

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 4 years ago from Missouri

      I enjoyed watching the videos and learning more about contact juggling.

    • Angelee1027 profile image

      Angelee1027 4 years ago

      This is just too cool! Thanks for the great read!

    • kigenemmanuel profile image

      kigenemmanuel 4 years ago

      an interesting topic. i suggest you write more about it.

    • bluelily lm profile image

      bluelily lm 4 years ago

      Juggling is amazing to see but really difficult to do in games or in life, it needs a fully attentive mind with undivided attention to sustain the act.

    • LeslieMirror profile image

      LeslieMirror 4 years ago

      Wow! it's just great! Have never seen this way of arts.

    • profile image

      geekharjeet 4 years ago

      Nice collection of the videos. Liked it.

    • adragast24 profile image

      adragast24 4 years ago

      Nice article! I had heard about it but you have gathered some nice info and videos about it!

    • Julia Morais profile image

      Julia Morais 4 years ago

      Nice. Didn't know these performances with clear balls were called contact juggling. Love how graceful the performers are.

    • SavioC profile image

      SavioC 4 years ago

      Hi. I have seen this on TV but did not know it's called contact juggling. That's super cool. I guess this can be a great way to relax too. I am going to try this for sure and amaze my daughter. Thank you for sharing this lens with us.

    • GregoryMoore profile image

      Gregory Moore 4 years ago from Louisville, KY

      I have never learned to juggle but have always wanted to. Amazing videos.

    • Northerntrials profile image

      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      Cute tutorial... she's a `charge`... :)

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      I loved the scene in "Labyrinth" where there was the juggling. It's an elegant and impressive art, very fluid.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      I can only imagine that it must feel light and soothing to manipulate these balls like this. I'd like to try it.

    • Tim Bader profile image

      Tim Bader 4 years ago from Surrey, UK

      What a great article. I'd seen this performed before, but didn't know it was called contact juggling!

      My best man taught me how to do 'normal' juggling while I was waiting for my wedding day, but I will have to look into this

      Thanks!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 4 years ago from USA

      I haven't seen this before; it's really something. It would be great to see this in person. Congratulations for making front page honors.

    • clevergirlname profile image

      clevergirlname 4 years ago

      I've always been fascinated by these - ever since the movie Labyrinth when David Bowie does the juggling glass orb thing... Great lens!

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      I can do it somewhat, have never practiced enough to get really good at it. I own an acrylic ball for it.

      I'd rather juggle my clubs or even better, my torches or machetes.