Page 3                                                 May 1980


By Craig Tumer Seattle, WA


Teaching juggling to actors and performers can be a satisfying and challenging task. As a specialist in movement training at the University of Washington's Professional Actor Training Program, I have found juggling to be a valuable addition to my class sequence. Aside from all the new things it can teach an actor about his or her body, most performers find it just plain fun.


Why do I teach juggling? It efficiently teaches hand-eye coor­dination, balance, awareness of right or left hand dominance, response to rhythmic changes and relaxed breathing. In passing routines, it is also valuable for developing awareness and co­operation with other performers.


One of the most important ideas for actors to learn is the connection between what they imagine and what we - the audience - can see. Juggling is an excellent way to see how clear an actor's mind is. As I am fond of pointing out, balls do not normally have a mind of their own and will only do what you make them do. In order to improve an incorrect throw, aside from a little practice, an actor must understand what he or she is trying to do and have a good, clean image of where the ball should go. That the mind leads the body, I think, is a selling point in juggling's favor.


Imagination over matter


All of this is an appeal to the actor to use imagina­tion in overcoming a physical obstacle. An actor can see the exact consequences of unsure juggling though in other physical skills training it is not so obvious. I encourage previsualization - seeing where the balls will go before they leave the hands. By emphasizing the mental process preceding the physical, it is easier for beginners to get started, and I have been able to offer more practical encouragement.


One thing I look for in a juggler is physical ease and relaxation. I don't think that juggling, for an actor or any performer, is just getting three balls up in the air any which way, tongue half out, breathing stopped and shoulders high. If an actor is to use juggling in performance or in warmups, it must be a way to release energy and relax. An exercise which increases tension is hardly something that an actor needs before a stressful performance.


No noise, now


I use some particular techniques in testing for relaxation and concentration of image. For instance, if I can hear the balls hitting the hands in a regular cascade, then I know that the juggler needs to drop the hands more just as the balls come down. I emphasize the softness and giving way in the hand so that there is no resistance and resulting sound. This leads to a more circular (figure eight) hand pattern, which is easier to sustain. It also makes the pop of the ball up into the pattern much easier, without a stop and start, which drains energy.


Working up the arm, I also check to see that the elbows stay fairly close by the body. This ensures 'that the hands and forearms do the work and the shoulders stay down.

At the end of juggling study, I have two tests: one is a brief three-to-five minute act in which the actors can juggle balls, hoops, pins, brooms or chairs, use the bongo board, do some passing or whatever - but as some kind of act. This might include comic patter, the use of some kind of dramatic situation in which juggling appears, or, in the case of advanced jugglers, a straightforward sequence of juggling effects.


Creative entertainment


This is the creative test where I look for the ac­tor's ability to get past the technique and attempt to entertain the class. I have had good actors who have been able to entertain us in spite of the fact that, technically, their juggling was really not that strong. But that's okay - I'm training actors who can do a little juggling, not the other way 'round.

The other half of the test is called the compulsories - rather like the school figures in skating at the Olympics. The actor is asked to start a cascade and continue while I give instructions such as, "Make the smallest cascade you can," "Make the biggest you can," "Make the wildest," etc.


I also test the actors' concentration by asking them to continue juggling and look at me, read some words out of an ad in a newspaper I hold up beyond the cascade, or to continue the cascade while I move in close and place my hands under, to the side, and over the balls.


I can tell if the concentration is off when the whole pattern begins to veer either toward or away from my hands. If an actor can juggle with this kind of pressure, I know he or she can do it for an audience.


I look for devices that continue to appeal to an actor's imagina­tion. I had an actress recently who had trouble getting beyond three passes until she began to say "Ah" on each throw.


Why did this help? Vocalizing releases tension through breath and relaxes the body. h also establishes a consistent rhythm; this is why I often play music during juggling classes and encourage the actors to use a variety of rhythms when they practice. This is a fundamental training for an actor who must learn to play different characters, each

one of whom has a different rhythm.


I think that, ultimately, juggling teaches the actor to extend him or herself and learn to handle complicated extraneous activity without tension or frustration. The actors need to learn to at least look at peace while juggling. What I look for in actors, actors who juggle and jugglers, is the ability to go beyond just "getting three balls in the air."




Five-baller reacts to everyday drops

By Brad Heffler Washington, DC


During my past two years of relatively serious juggling, I have often wondered what separates the advanced juggler from the rest of the population. I am not referring to the actual ability to keep a multitude of balls dancing in the air, but rather to the subtle differences in a juggler's day.


I think I noticed the difference first right after perfecting my five-ball cascade. It's obvious that better reflexes and quicker reaction time characterize the serious juggler. But, until you read this, you might not notice that, for those quicker folks, almost nothing hits the ground around them. I'm not talking about juggling props, but about everyday items.


When an object is dropped, it almost seems to freeze in the air while you grab it before it hits the ground.

I remember several examples last week to illustrate my point. A bar of soap slipped out of my hand, only to be caught by my other hand after falling about one foot. My roomate knocked an empty glass off the table, which I barely grabbed six inches from the floor.


I'm sure that after reading this, you will begin to notice similar incidents in your day. So, the next time you spot someone at the next table grab a falling fork out of the air, go ask him how his five­ball cascade is coming.

Craig Turner instructs an aspiring actress at the U. of Washington.

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