Page 16                                             Spring 1988   

Give & Take Teams Find the Secret to Success in Philly

by Neree Aron-Sando


To The Give and Take Jugglers, juggling is not a job or even an adventure. For the past 12 years it's been a calling.


Dave Gillies, Nick Gregory and various apprentices have entertained tens of thousands in the Philadelphia, Penn., area and been directly and indirectly responsible for teaching thousands more to juggle.


"In the beginning years," said Gillies. "Teaching large numbers of people to juggle at a festival made me feel like a missionary spreading the 'Joyful Catch.'"


Not a surprising attitude for a teacher who retired five years ago to juggle full time, or for the grandson of a fundamen­talist evangelical preacher. "What we're doing is quite similar to my grandfather preaching on the street," he said. "Juggling has an evangelistic quality in that it's entertaining. People are converted by juggling as they are by preaching, just to different ends."


For several years, the troupe was made up entirely of Gillies and his fifth grade students. "It took me weeks to learn from the Carlo book, but then it only took a fe" minutes for my students to learn from me personally," he said. "We approached it and practiced it as a sport, but people quickly began expecting us to perform."


His own personal performance career began with help from another Philadelphia juggler, Robert Peck. While juggling three balls for fun at a folk festival, a harmonica player stopped him. "He played a tune and I juggled to it," Gillies recalled. "Then he stopped and put down his harmonica and juggled the three balls. He looked at me like, 'Tah-dah, I can do it, too.'


Then he played the harmonica and juggled at the same time! The only thing I could think of to top that was to put a ball in my mouth and juggle three harmonicas!"


Peck convinced Gillies to perform the bit with him at a coffeehouse. Peck also came to Gillies' school to teach students some of his tricks.


With Peck's help, Gillies and the class developed some material and began to perform for free at nursing homes, children's hospitals and other schools. They soon moved on to performances and workshops at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, where they taught 1,500-2,000 people a year to juggle. "We didn't even have a name for two years, but came up with 'Give and Take' because it was a nice double entendre for describing the process by which we all learned."


He and his class attended the 1977 IJA convention in Newark, Del. Then Gillies began the professional Give and Take company by doing two-man shows with Thien Phu. Gillies continued to work with students at the same time. One girl, Page Wolper, performed with GilIies and Phu for about three years. Like many other students he has worked with, she has moved on to an honorable future. She's now enrolled at Harvard University.

David Cousin and David Gillies of the Give & Take Jugglers

David Cousin and David Gillies of the Give & Take Jugglers with the group's hurdy-gurdy.

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