Page 11                                             March 1982

Jean Claude

 "Golly, Ma!  What's an antipodist?"


Jean Claude could juggle with his hands tied behind his back. This extraordinary Frenchman uses his feet!


Lying on a platform with his toes pointed at the ceiling, Jean Claude causes soccer balls, tapered cylinders and two personable soccer playing dolls named Mick and Tony to cavort on the soles of his slippers.


During a United States tour in 1981 as part of the Harlem Globetrotters halftime show, Jean Claude performed before 92,000 people. He also appeared in Las Vegas at the Flamingo-Hilton Hotel and was booked for an appearance on the Merv Griffin TV show. For 20 years before the American hardcourt tour, he developed an international reputation, introducing Europeans and Asians to "antipodism," the art of juggling with only the feet.


He came upon the skill quite by himself, while looking for an act to please his father, Rudy Bolly, who also performed. He began his career in the summer of 1960. "My father had a pretty boring wire act and was looking for me to do something that would play anywhere," Jean Claude said. "I didn't like the wire or hand juggling, and got into antipodism pretty haphazardly. An agent we knew said there weren't any antipodists around, and that was a good reason to work harder at it. "


Father and son performed together for many years, during which time his father dreamed up Mick and Tony, which are the highlight of Jean Claude's solo act now.

Like puppets on strings, the pair of 12-pound dolls twirl and hop from foot to foot with practiced precision. They wear soccer tops and short pants, and their noses are painted red. A device on the dolls' feet allows Jean Claude to make their light bulb eyes flash on and off.


He flips them end over end, and even catches one head first on the head of the other. Tossing a soccer ball by hand to Mick's head, Jean Claude then tilts the doll to transfer it to Tony's head.


With help from Jacques Gambi, his prop assistant, the dolls play out a comic routine with eyes flashing and flexible arms flailing. With one doll balanced on one foot, the other doll is held in his hands and looks back and forth around Jean Claude's legs.  Gambi wipes that doll's face with a towel and gets hit as he walks away!


The dolls are the stars of the show, but not the whole of it. Jean Claude kicks two cylinders end over end simultaneously like propellers. He balances a soccer ball on each foot, then tosses up a third and catches it between and on top of the other two. Finally, he juggles four soccer balls between his hands and feet.


His dexterity and skill in this esoteric juggling art are astounding. While the action is up in the air, the audience almost forgets about the head and eyes of the man controlling things from below.


Many of his Globetrotter shows were in huge stadiums like New Orleans' Superdome, where the audience in the top rows couldn't see the act too clearly. Other adverse conditions, such as overhead lights, taped music and competition from vendors in the aisles made things less than ideal during the 26 week, 40,000 mile tour.


"It's not like working in an office," Jean Claude commented. "For ten minutes I must pay absolute attention. The public doesn't see my concentration, but if I let a prop fall they'll hoot me out of the stadium. "  He was looking forward to playing again for smaller, less distracted audiences in European nightclubs.


While he has seen several jugglers manipulate one object with their feet, Jean Claude claims that his independent control of two objects is unique. "The difficulty of my act is in how each leg works separately," he said. "You can learn to control a big cross or cigar with both feet simultaneously in about a year, but true antipodism takes a lot longer. "

Jean Claude

Jean Claude

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