Mills Mess is the first move of 'The Big Three' (the other two are Burke's Barrage, and Rubenstein's Revenge). Mill's Mess is undoubtedly the easiest. There are two things to remember. In a basic cascade (the simplest move), and most others, all the balls follow a basic pattern: each ball follows the others. In a cascade they follow a figure of eight, on its side (an infinity symbol, I suppose). In Mill's Mess, each ball follows its own pattern, distinct, and non-negotiable. The second thing to remember is that your arms move...

Right. Put your hands out in front of you. Cross the right over the left, so that your right hand is on the left side of your body, and your left hand is on your right. Uncross your arms, and then recross them the other way, so that the left hand is over the right. This is the basic movement of your arms when doing Mill's Mess. Right over left: left over right: right over left. Easy, huh?

This is what happens to each ball... I'll describe each ball separately - they can be practised like this.

Ball Number One. Cross your arms, left over right, and hold one ball in the bottom hand, the right one. Throw it straight up, on the left side of your body. Uncross your arms. Catch it in your left hand, and carry it back to your right side. Your right hand should be over your left. The next stage is the reverse of this... Throw the ball straight up on the right side of your body (from your left hand, remember). Uncross your hands, and catch it in your right hand. Carry the ball to the left side of your body, with your left arm over your right. You're back to where you started. This ball, the bottom hand ball does this move throughout the pattern.

Ball Number Two. Again, cross your arms, left over right. Hold the ball in your left hand (on the right side of your body). Throw the ball in a wide arc, back towards the left side of the pattern. Uncross your arms, and then recross them (the other way round, yeah?), and catch the ball in your right hand on the left side of the pattern. Your right arm should be over your left. The next stage is the reverse of this... Throw the ball, in your right hand - right arm over left - back towards the right of your body in a wide arc. Uncross and recross your arms (the other way around), and catch it in your left hand, on the right side of the pattern. The left arm should be over the right. You're back to where you started. This ball, the top hand ball does this move throughout the pattern.

All well and good. Practise each ball separately, and then try and do them together. One ball in each hand. Throw one straight up, the other back in an arc. Uncross your arms; catch the first one. Recross your arms; catch the second. Repeat the other way around.

Ball Number Three. Okay. Now the tough part. You need all three balls for this. Hold balls one and two as you have been doing for the two ball practice stage, and hold the third ball in your bottom hand. Do the first two stages, throw one up, the other back in the arc. Uncross your arms: catch the first. Now throw the third. Your arms are uncrossed, and the throw is straight up, from the left side, or from the right side. As your arms recross, it should be heading back towards the bottom hand. Before it does throw the ball in the bottom hand, carried from the other side of the pattern, straight up (the first move I described) and catch the third ball... you're now heading off to do the move in reverse. If this third ball seems too complicated, turn your head off and think this instead: 'The third ball follows the second one. Straight up.' Madness, but it's just as effective.

I know that this looks complicated, but it's correct, and it is followable too. I know this 'cos I followed it. I was having terrible trouble getting the move: I'm a really slow juggler - it takes me ages to 'get' any of it. I worked for a while with two really tremendous jugglers, and one of them - he used to juggle subconsciously while he was entertaining guests just to keep in practice - talked me through the move: this is what he told me (the best bit is the third ball 'cheat' at the end of the description). He was a marvellous chap, a really great guy, and his juggling of the Mess was so precise and fluent... it was as if the balls were trained. I was so jealous! He did a mean Barrage too, and a faultless Revenge.

Adrian, if you're out there, thanks my friend. I can do it now. It took a while, but I can do it. I've got The Weave, and Boxes too - really nice. Any help on Burke's Barrage? I've got the high hands fine, but I can't manage the windmills... Any suggestions?

Said the Doc to the Lad
  " 'Tis my guess,
That you've thrown out both
  shoulders no less.
Tell me, how did you manage
To do so much damage?"
Said the lad," I was tryin'
	Mills' Mess"

		George Gilson

Mills Mess variations

Aside from standard 3 ball Mills Mess, there are several interesting variations not yet mentioned. Mills Mess with five balls is quite insane, but it is also possible with 4! The strange thing about 4 ball Mills Mess is that it still only involves 3 throws per hand cycle and when closely scrutinized, still follows the standard 4 ball pattern where balls are not moved between hands. Some other cool patterns for Mills Mess are 2/3 Mills Mess, where in you switch after 2 throws, which is a form of Shadow Pattern and the ridiculous 1/3 Mills Mess, where, beginning with two in your top hand and one in bottom, like normal Mills Mess, you switch with each throw (always throwing from the bottom except for the first.) There is also Mills Columns, aka Boston Mills Mess, which is a 12 step pattern in which each ball stays in its own column (much like 2 ball columns, but with 3 and the Mills Mess hand pattern!)

Actually, the passing pattern (or siteswap notation) of Mills Mess (note the correct spelling - no "'") is exactly the same as normal cascade's (or fountain's). The trick is how you move your hands; cross right over left, uncross, cross left over right, uncross, do the cha cha chaa and back again... Mills Mess isn't only a juggling trick as it can also be done with devil sticks, and probably with many other props.

I invented (though I probably wasn't the first) a juggling pattern in which one of the balls is always thrown over the top and another under the arm, leaving the third ball just sort of bouncing around in the middle. For some strange reason the three balls remind me of nut, geb, and shu, the goddess of the sky, god of the earth, and god of light and air, respectively, in Egyptian Mythology. Anyway, it's a lot like Mill's Mess because the arms cross back and forth, and I think they might even be topologically homeomorphic.

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