Page 2                                             Fall 1988



On Women's Issues

As artistic director of the Pickle Family Circus (and a woman) I deal with women's issues daily (sometimes hourly). Our show has featured talented women jugglers, clowns, acrobats and aerialists since its inception 14 years ago. I saw many talented women at the convention in Denver also, and yet found it disquieting that the numbers, juniors and individual nationals were all-male.


Something isn't working. I saw how the young boys have their older juggling heroes and felt that young girls also need to know who their heroines are. After Olga Korbet electrified the crowds, a whole nation of little girls took up gymnastics. The juggling talent is there.


Why more women don't compete is a complex issue. It goes beyond, "Oh well, I guess they just aren't interested." When a man competes in an all-male setting, he only represents himself. When a woman competes in an all-male setting .she must inevitably represent "Women." Quite a bit of added stress!


"How to compete" is a skill which can be learned. The Soviet Union released a study which revealed that the athletes who spent a mere 25 percent of their total training time on purely physical exercises and 75 percent on mental preparation did better than the athletes who divided their time 50-50! I would therefore suggest convention workshops on the psychology of competition for starters.


But how about the nature of juggling itself? Is juggling like gymnastics, figure skating, tennis and classical ballet where women and men each have a place to excel and are never compared with one another? If it is, then we really need to have a men's and a women's competition. Or is juggling like playing a musical instrument (the Tchaikovsky competition is open to men and women) and totally equal in all respects?? In that case, we can choose to keep things as they are, but talk more openly about how we think and feel.


Or is juggling somewhere in between? Should only some championships (numbers and joggling) feature separate competitions? Or are women against the idea of competition on principle? Many possibilities exist and we need to communicate on them.


We should also carefully examine how we teach. Do we inadvertently teach boys and girls differently? And are we aware of messages in even our most innocent and clever intentions? Tearing apart women dummies on stage and using them as prop holders sends out a message that it's OK to use women as objects and treat them violently.


I am thinking about all the little girls out there. I want them to know that becoming a juggler can be a joyous and wonderful art/sport/pastime or occupation, that it has rewards and that there is dignity in being a woman juggler. They can derive strength from feeling a connection to women jugglers past and present.


Thanks to the many members I spoke with concerning this. Your openness and input are greatly appreciated.

Judy Finelli - San Francisco , California

Time To Change

It's time to change the IJA competition system. Minor adjustments and fine tuning won't suffice. A major revision is in order by the Baltimore convention.


The new system should be modeled on several European circus competitions where acts are measured against the highest standards of skill and artistry rather than against each other. Competitors are awarded gold, silver or bronze medals without reference to a numerical rank order. Any number of medals for any of the three levels could be awarded at any IJA convention.


Entrants should be screened by a preliminary panel of knowledgeable, qualified judges. These judges either approve the act for competition, or reject it. All acts approved for the finals should be capable of medal performance. Those rejected should be coached on how to improve their performance.


The final round judges look at the artistry and skill of each act. Singles, teams, juniors and women can all perform at the same time since they are not competing against each other. The judges convene after each presentation and select by majority whether an act deserves a medal, and which one.


Gold, of course, represents the highest levels of skill. and artistry, innovation, flawless performance and unique approach. Silver goes for extremely high standards of skill and artistry, but with room for improvement in places. Bronze achieves high standards of skill and artistry, but is flawed by excessive drops,

presentation problems or lack of extreme difficulty, artistry or innovation.


There will be no numerical scores kept, and there will be no ranking of medal winners. Winners are simply, "a gold medal winner" and not "the 19XX IJA team champion." Numbers competitions will be held in a separate venue more befitting the athletic nature of the numbers event.


This proposal is a draft for discussion. But the level of frustration that the audience expressed at this year's competition is a clear mandate to change. There are minor risks inherent in these changes, but nothing like the risk involved in resisting change.

Dave Finnigan Edmonds , Washington


(Editor's note: The IJA is sincerely interested in restructuring its championships along the lines of Finnigan's proposal. It encourages comments from members. Please write or call: Craig Barnes, championships director, Berkeley , CA.


Thanks to Denver Folks

I want to compliment Tricia Allen, her Denver friends and the IJA staff for a well organized IJA convention. This was my first IJA convention and I found it a great experience. The finale show was wonderful entertainment and every act was outstanding. It was a wonderful week for Roger and a great one for me. I should like to hear the band that presented the 50's music again.                       .


When the mundane activities of farm life get dull, I can look back and remember the Denver IJA convention.

Juanita Montandon -  Bixby , Oklahoma


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