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rec.juggling Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Archive-name: juggling-faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 1999/02/01
Version: $Id: FAQ.txt,v 1.33 1999/02/01 07:35:56 barry Exp $

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
 1. What is the Juggling Information Service?
 2. Is there a news to mail gateway for rec.juggling?
 3. What is Mills Mess?  How can I do Mills Mess?
 4. What is contact juggling?
 5. Are there any organizations for jugglers?
 6. What do all those funny numbers mean?
 7. Are there any books that deal with juggling?
 8. How can I learn to juggle five balls?
 9. Is there a juggling club that meets near me?
10. Where can I buy juggling props?
11. Where can I learn about the history of juggling?

This is the file recjuggl.faq.  It is meant to answer those questions
that are frequently asked on rec.juggling.  These questions and
answers are not exhaustive, by any means.

Additions, deletions, corrections, praise, or flames regarding this
document may be directed to  The latest version of
this file is available at:


1. What is the Juggling Information Service?

   The Juggling Information Service, or JIS, is a service available on
   the World Wide Web at:

   The JIS has sections for the following:

        What's New
        Juggling Help
        Jugglers' Home Pages
        News and Old News
        Picture Gallery
        Movie Theater
        Juggler's Mall
        Club Meetings
        Magazine Rack
        Juggler's World
        Juggling in the Media
        Juggling Software
        Juggling Organizations
        Search JIS
        About the JIS

   It is possible to access the JIS services by WWW, FTP, e-mail, or
   Telnet.  For more information on these services and how to use
   them, send an e-mail message to

2. Is there a news to mail gateway for rec.juggling?

   Not at the moment.  The former gateway at PNFI has been shut down.
   A replacement is being worked on, but will probably not be available
   until about September 1.

3. What is Mills Mess?  How can I do Mills Mess?

   Mills Mess is, as George Gillson puts it, a "mind boggling pattern
   of circling balls, crossing and uncrossing hands, and unexpected
   catches."  It is a very appealing pattern to learn and perform.
   You can perform it with three, four, and, for those who are not of
   this world, five balls.

   On the JIS, move to the 'Juggling Help' section, and you will find
   several pertinent titles.

   There are also titles on two and three ball tricks, bounce
   juggling, showering, and tricks with showers, among others.  You
   will also find help for clubs, passing, rings, torches, numbers,
   siteswaps, essays, and other circus arts.

4. What is contact juggling?

   "Contact" Juggling is the art manipulating balls so that they roll
   across, around, and over your body.  In other words, the balls
   always remain in contact with your body.  Although the term
   "contact juggling" is relatively new, rolling a ball across, around
   and over one's body is not.  Paul Cinquevalli, for instance, a
   juggler at the turn of the century, performed a routine where he
   wore a green felt jacket that had billiard "pockets" sewn onto it.
   He would manipulate billiard balls over his body and land them in
   the pockets.

   Today, Michael Moschen is the preeminent "contact" juggler.  He has
   a routine where he manipulates up to four crystal balls in each
   hand and gradually lets each ball go until he is manipulating only
   one ball.  Mr. Moschen is also known for his work in the movie
   Labyrinth where he acted as the hands of David Bowie doing his
   crystal ball routine (he did the routine blind and with the aid of
   a monitor.  Mr. Moschen was featured on the PBS Series "Great
   Performances" in the early 1990's.  This video is entitled "In
   Motion with Michael Moschen" and is available from Serious Juggling
   and Brian Dube (see vendor information below).  More recently, Mr.
   Moschen developed a piece for Cirque de Soleil.  Mr. Steve Ragatz,
   rec.juggler, performs in this piece.

   James Ernest wrote "Contact Juggling," and thereby coined the term.
   (Moschen prefers "Dynamic Manipulation.") Ernest's book remains the
   definitive analysis and explanation of contact juggling, and is also
   available from Serious Juggling and Brian Dube.  The book is quite
   controversial among traditionalists, who maintain that only
   Mr. Moschen has the right to perform or write about Dynamic
   Manipulation.  Mr.  Moschen himself seems to have been the first
   person to make this claim.

   Some individuals also claim that the book takes one of Moschen's
   routines and describes it movement for movement without giving
   proper credit.  Others claim that this is not true.  It is
   interesting to note that those who make the first claim are almost
   never practitioners of contact juggling, and those who make the
   second claim invariably are.

   Mr. Moschen created quite a stir in 1992 when he objected to the
   publication of a review of this book in Juggler's World after the
   IJA had invited Moschen to be the honored guest at the '92 festival
   in Montreal.  Moschen at first refused to attend the festival.
   After some reconsideration, he did attend and gave a workshop on

5. Are there any organizations for jugglers?

   Of course.  The International Jugglers' Association (IJA) has nearly
   3,000 members in several countries, although most are in the US.
   It publishes Juggler's World (an excellent magazine), an annual membership
   roster, and hosts a large annual festival, including many shows
   and competitions, and more.  The European Juggling Association was
   created to host a large annual juggling convention in Europe.  The
   New Zealand Juggling Association publishes the Flying Kiwi magazine
   and hosts an annual convention.

6. What do all those funny numbers mean?

   They are site swaps.

   Site swaps are strings of numbers, each number refers to how high a
   throw is in relation to others in the pattern.  Even numbers are
   thrown to the same hand, odd numbers are thrown across to the other
   hand.  The numbers then, tell the right hand what to do, then the
   left, the the right, etc.  For example:

        3       The three object cascade

   The pattern repeats over and over again.  So rather than writing
   "...33333..." we just write "3."  Similarly:

        4       The 4 object fountain pattern (alternating)
        5       The 5 object cascade pattern
        5 1     The 3 object non-synchronous shower (1 is a quick
                pass from hand to hand)

    At the JIS, move to the 'Juggling Help' section and select the title
    Siteswap Notation for more information on site-swaps.

    In addition to the site swap notation, there are a number of
    programs that will display site swap patterns for the PC, X
    Workstations (Unix), Ascii Terminals (Unix), and the Mac.  Refer
    to the directory Software section at the JIS.

7. Are there any books that deal with juggling?

   Juggling For the Complete Klutz, By John Cassidy.

        The quintessential beginners guide.  This book comes with
        three bean bags to get you started.  It also covers basic
        tricks such as the half shower, behind the back,
        two-in-one-hand, four balls, and clubs.  This book comes with
        three bean bags and is very cleverly written.  The beef
        against this book, though, is that it addresses numbers
        juggling (juggling five balls or more) in a rather
        discouraging tone.  Beyond four lies madness, it claims

   The Complete Juggler, By Dave Finnegan.

        Where it lacks in detail, it makes up in volume. _The Complete
        Juggler_ is a veritable encyclopedia of tricks for balls,
        clubs, boxes, devil sticks, diabolos, and spinning balls.
        Beware of its lack of detail in explaining tricks, however.
        The text that describes how to juggle 5 clubs says 'bend your
        knees' and 'go for it.'  Yeah, right.

   Beyond the Cascade, By George Gillson.

        The complete guide to three ball juggling patterns.  Even if
        you have trouble understanding instructions like 'toes go in
        first,' you can probably follow the instructions in this book
        and learn Mills Mess, 2-in-1-hand tennis, or Burke's Barrage
        (bend your knees and go for it).

   At the JIS, move to the 'Juggling in the Media' section.

8. How can I learn to juggle five balls?

   Probably your best bet for learning five balls is to find a good 5
   ball juggler and have her or him teach you.  Also, study good five
   ball jugglers when they ply their craft, notice how effortlessly
   smooth the pattern is, how high the balls go, how the balls cross.

   If you can't find a five ball juggler, you can practice several
   tricks that will help you learn five balls.  The first is the three
   ball flash.  Out of a three ball cascade, throw all of the balls
   into the air, then catch them as them come down and resume your
   cascade.  It might be helpful to practice throwing one ball high,
   back and forth, so that you can get used to the higher throws that
   are necessary for juggling five balls. Another valuable trick is
   the three ball chase, or snake.  Start with three balls in either
   hand, then throw them to the other hand in a one, two, three
   pattern and then catch them in the opposite hand, one, two, three.
   Make sure that your throws are consistent and follow each other in
   nice high arcs (those of you who've been to St.  Louis can
   visualize the Gateway Arch).  Then repeat the pattern, throwing the
   balls one, two, three, back to your original hand.  Once your arcs
   are solid, you can keep the pattern going. Say you're starting with
   your right hand, throw the balls one, two, three, to your left
   hand.  Your left hand will catch the first ball, then cascade it
   back to your right hand, under ball two.  You will, similarly,
   cascade ball two under ball three, and then ball three will be
   cascaded back.

 9. Is there a juggling club that meets near me?

   See the form designed to answer this very question:

   The JIS Club Meetings section lists all known juggling meetings

10. Where can I buy juggling props?

   At the JIS, move to the 'Juggler's Mall' section for information on
   all juggling vendors worldwide:

   This contains complete contact information for many vendors that
   sell a wide variety of juggling props via mail order or e-mail.

11. Where can I learn about the history of juggling?

   Use the search tool of the JIS and look for "history".
   It will find references in over 400 files, including:

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