The Newbies Guide To Starting Contact Juggling.
A small Essay on What a "Newbie" would want to know.
Hello there, and welcome to my essay. I decided to write this so that the new contact jugglers of the world have one place to go that will have (hopefully) all the information they are going to need to start this art.
This is by no means the be all end all of a newbie's guide. I do not claim that this is the most complete and informative essay there is for starting out. I will do my best to try and include everything I can by looking at it from a beginner's point of view. If I find that I have forgotten something, I will update this essay to include it again. So think of this as a work in progress.
So now, with that introduction out of the way, lets get on with the show.
So you want to be a Contact Juggler, eh? What? You don't know where to start? Well don't worry, that's why you're reading this. And just the fact that you have made it here is a good sign that you at least have found the best source for Contact Juggling there is.
Before I begin to help you on your way, let me say that this is an art that requires practice, dedication, and a hell of a lot of patience. Do not get discouraged because something isn't working. A lot of these moves are hard, but the feeling you get when you nail them perfectly is very rewarding. Also, on the flip side, there might be something that you see and master within a day or so. Take that opportunity to make it look stunning. A good rule of thumb I like to live by is, "Make the hard look easy, and make the easy look beautiful." Basically what I am saying is persistence pays off. If you find that you are practicing till your fingers are numb and not getting anywhere, it may help you to take a break for a day or two. Sometimes a little get-away is all your brain needs to sub-consciously fix what is going wrong with the trick.
This community is full of helpful, understanding people. We are not a group of performers that will flame you for asking weird questions, nor will we get upset when someone asks a question that seems to have just been answered. If you take the time to actually get to know your fellow Contact Jugglers, you will discover that this community, is very tight-knit. I have seen numerous times when the people on this board have come together in one mass to become a force that just screams "Don't mess with us." But just because its small now does not mean that it will stay that way. And with the way its looking now, it won't.
I will start out with some of the more basic questions that you may have on your mind. And then to some ones that you might ask later.
"What type of Ball Should I use?" (See also Rich Shumaker's essay on balls)
This is the question that is like the "Shot heard 'round the world". We hear it at least once a week. And there is a simple answer.... Any type you want. It is mostly a personal preference. Ball type depends on what style of CJ you are planning on pursuing. If you plan on going with the bodyrolling style, a stage ball would be a good place to start. Also you can use a lacrosse ball, a dog ball from a pet store, or any other spherical object. The ball itself should have 3 properties: a good weight, spherical in shape, and even balance. If however, you plan on going the palmspinning route, then acrylics would be your best bet. You can use silicone or rubber; however, you will have to learn to spin them without touching because of their high surface tension. I have yet to find another type of ball (besides marble, onyx, and glass) that the surface is slippery enough for the balls to slide against one another. Palmspinning is the more expensive way to go because you will need to purchase multiple balls. So be sure this is the style you want to pursue before you go crazy and buy 20 acrylics your first time out.
"What Size ball should I use?"
Ball size is also something that is different for everybody's body. In bodyrolling, Rich Shumaker has a belief, and I tend to go along with it; it is a theory that you need to find the right size ball that fits your body. Now granted, the bigger the ball, the easier the learning is, and the more visual. But also the bigger you go, the more the ball covers parts of your body that should be used in the trick as well. You don't want to go out and have a huge ball that obscures your hands because what also makes this look cool is the fact that your hands are able to be seen at the same time. For most bodyrolling, the average ball sizes are 2.75 - 4 inches, with the majority in the 3-4 inch area. You should just experiment with a mirror and try to imagine what you look like from the audience's point of view. If you say to yourself that the ball is too big, then try a size smaller. Most palmspinners I have met, no matter how small or large their hands are, can work with a starting size of 2.5 inches. Many of these people gradually upgrade till they get to a size comfortable to them, be that 2.75 or 3 inches. Myself, I started with 2.5 inch balls and practiced going up, and while I can palmspin up to 3.5 inch balls, I have stayed with using 2.5s for multiball work. The reason behind it is that if I go to larger balls, I lose the ability to perform certain tricks. If you are willing to sacrifice a couple tricks so the audience can see better, that is up to you. Balls that are bigger when palmspinning make for a flashier show, but they will take more finesse to learn than if you start small.
"Where do I buy a ball?"
OK, You already know that there are many places to pick up your ball. Going to any pet store will yield good results for finding rubber and tennis balls of various sizes. If you are looking into getting a stage ball, you can go to any local juggling shop in your area. If you don't have a juggling shop, then the internet is your best choice. A few good places to pick up a stage ball would be: www.renegadejuggling.com, www.seriousjuggling.com, and www.dube.com. The difference between a Dube stage ball and a Babache ball is the ball by Dube has a harder surface, and is slicker to the touch. Stage balls that are made by Babache and are slightly squishy and tacky. If you are looking to buy acrylics, the top websites would be www.renegadejuggling.com and www.dube.com . If you plan on buying a lot of acrylics (More than 100 dollars worth), you can check out www.plasticballs.com. They have cheap acrylics, but you have to ask for prices of what you want.
"Ok I have my ball, now what should I learn first?"
Long ago, a wise contact juggler had decided he heard this question far too many times, so he sat down and wrote a VERY long essay on this topic. So, instead of me trying to steal the fire away from it, which I have no chance of doing, I will direct you to it. Ferret's "First five steps" has all the info you need on what to do with your ball once you finally have it in your possession. Another good essay to read is Remy's "Butterfly" essay -- this explains the concept of the trick that uses the figure 8 pattern better than anyone has ever explained it before, I think.
"Who is this "Ferret" fella?"
Ferret is, in a way, our father of contact juggling; he has many years (10+) under his belt, and works the local ren fairs in Florida. He was the organizer of CJC2001 and CJC2002. His real name is ******s ********, but you can call him Ferret. He is a great Contact Juggler, and a damn good friend to have in your corner.
"Kae Verens? Who's that?"
Webmaster of what you see, lives in Ireland, and prefers to be called Kae. His bio is on this website, and does a better job than I ever could at explaining it.
"What is a good source for Juggling Festivals and Conventions?"
One of the best ways to meet contact jugglers is by going to conventions and festivals held by jugglers. It's amazing what happens -- they just come out of the woodwork like cockroaches in a dark room. The best place to go is the Juggling Information Service at www.juggling.org. This place should have the most up-to-date listings of upcoming events and schedules at their disposal. Nothing beats meeting up with another CJer to just freestyle.
For now, this concludes what I have to write. I will periodically come back and add more. Whatever I add will be continually added to the bottom of the page. I hope you have found this informative and helpful, as I have tried my best to steer you towards the light in this strange and wonderful art.