A book titled Contact Juggling, comprising instructions on how to do many of the moves created by, popularized by, or associated with the style of Moschen, was written by a former pro juggler named James Ernest. This was seen as uncool by some in the juggling community when the book was first published, as potentially stealing Moschen's act outright and exposing all the tricks.

The introduction to the aforementioned James Ernest's "Contact Juggling" describes the appeal of contact juggling beautifully:

"The illusion created is one of a free-floating, weightless ball, subject to unusual laws of motion. A good contact juggler can make his own movements seem almost unrelated to the movements of the ball; the attention of the audience is always fixed on the ball. Contact juggling is, above all, graceful and absorbing.

...

It is the mesmerizing quality of contact juggling that truly separates it from other forms. To take a single ball and cause your audience to sit quietly amazed; to do something so simple and obvious and still hear, 'How is that possible?'; this is the beauty of contact juggling. Juggling chain saws won't make them sit silently, and they won't ask you how to do it. Just why. And unlike producing a tiger from a fish tank, you can actually tell them how you do it, and they will still want to see it again."

With that said, if you are interested in contact juggling, you must first find a ball and then learn your first trick, the butterfly.

What is it?

Quite a bit more esoteric than its cousin, contact juggling is essentially the art of rolling spheres along the performer's body, primarily the arms. The contact juggler relies heavily on playing with the human senses to dazzle the audience, making the ball appear to move in a gravity-defying fashion, hanging in the air, hovering around his hands or flying between seemingly motionless fingers. Clear acrylic spheres are usually used to accomplish this illusion, although a skilled CJer can make any spherical object perform a mesmerizing dance.

What is known as contact juggling today (aka Sphereplay, Dynamic Manipulation, etc) has largely grown out of the performances of Michael Moschen, although he does not view CJ as a separate discipline himself.
There have been some references to sphere-balancing training being used by various martial arts trainees in the past, but I am not up to par with the history here.

How does this work?

There are several key moves that I am able to identify, although this is a very free-form area:
  • The Cradle

    Not exactly a move in itself. A position of the fingers (either all fingers flexed, middle finger lowered, or two fingers slightly spread apart) that allows the sphere to rest on the back of the hand.

  • Butterflies and Windshield wipers and derived moves.

    This is perhaps the defining move, certainly the one most readily recognized from popular media (The Matrix, Labyrinth). The ball is transferred from the palm to the cradle and back again, usually over the tip of the middle finger. Quite fascinating to watch by itself if done fluidly. Also tends to be the first move taught to novices.

  • Isolations

    A large family of moves where the sphere appears to stay completely still as the performer's hands move around it. Many moves can be converted into isolations. The simplest one is accomplished by grasping the sphere (something many CJers dislike) and rotating the arm around its axis.

  • Palmspins

    Spinning two or more (although single-ball "spins" are also performed) spheres in one's palm. The middle, ring and pinkie fingers are normally used with the thumb serving as a guide. Practicing palmspins with smaller spheres, or Chinese meditation balls, is advised.

  • Body Rolls

    Rolling the sphere along the performer's arm, neck, torso, etc. Can look spectacular, especially with the right choice of clothing. Overlaps with...

  • Passes

    The connecting elements between moves, although pass combinations can look fantastic by themselves. The simplest passes are between the palms and cradles of opposite hands.

  • Other

    ``Flyaways'', ``Elevators'' and everything else that defies description.


Sounds great, how do I start?

First and foremost, read the essays on contactjuggling.org. Ferret provides excellent instructions for all would-be contact jugglers. I can only add that a lacrosse ball makes an excellent practice sphere; the weight is just right, and the bounce helps while walking down the street doing half-assed butterflies.



Everything I know about CJ came from contactjuggling.org and sites linked therein. I am but a larva

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