Page 24 Winter 1990 - 91
FESTIVAL BREATHES FRESH AIR OF
NEW EUROPEAN FREEDOM
13th European Juggling Festival brought together more than 2,000
jugglers for a gathering that was light on organization and
structure, but heavy on fun and entertainment. Complementing the new
spirit sweeping Europe, the emphasis was on freedom, allowing
jugglers to shape the festival as they saw fit. Workshops,
performances and a business meeting were all informal and flexible.
highlight of the Aug. 30 - Sept. 2, 1990, gathering in Oldenburg,
Germany, was its special guests. There were two Soviet acts - Sergei
Ignatov and the team of Victor Koscmann and Pavel Koscel, as well as
the American trio Airjazz (Peter Davison, Jon Held, Kezia Tenenbaum).
daily practice sessions drew hundreds of awestruck spectators,
Koscel and Koscmann were amazing club passers, and Airjazz again
confirmed their international reputation for inventive movement
day-by-day activities centered around workshops. They covered the
topics familiar at American festivals, such as balls, diabolo, devil
stick, cigar boxes and club swinging. But certain subjects also
carried a special European flair, such as clownerie, circus skills,
acrobatics and balance. Among the non-prop-oriented workshops
offered was one on comedy writing, taught by Todd Strong. A
routining workshop taught by Airjazz drew hundreds of spectators.
workshops were divided into different sessions to accommodate
participants' varying skill levels. There were "learner"
workshops for beginners, "advanced" sessions for the
experienced and a unique opportunity for the exchange of ideas
called" off limits." The off limits workshops were for
highly advanced jugglers to exchange ideas, swap tricks or
demonstrate routines in a completely unstructured setting. There was
also time scheduled for spontaneous workshops. Ignoring the obvious
irony of scheduling a spontaneous workshop, the concept was a good
one aimed at letting the jugglers take the festival in diverse
favorite prop had to be the diabolo. Diabolos of every size and
color were flying everywhere. Two Parisians, Jean-Manuel Thomas and
Thierry Nadalini, drew rave reviews from diabolo aficionados. It is
also interesting to note that very few people in Oldenburg did
serious numbers... not because they couldn't, I suspect,
but because they chose not to. The emphasis seemed to be on the art,
and on performance for its own sake, rather than on numbers and
performing to win.
of workshops, the bulk of the time spent at the festival involved
what we all presumably went for, open juggling. More than 1,800
people registered at a cost of $20 for the four days. Organizers
estimated, though, that closer to 2,500 people actually attended.
Juggling space was quite readily available for even these large
numbers. There were two large sheltered areas, one inside and the
other outdoors, where everyone had a chance to pass clubs, play
unicycle hockey, steal tricks or do whatever.
passed the time just watching other jugglers. Waldo and Michiel
Hesseling passing six, seven, and eight clubs garnered a lot of
attention, as did Marcus Markoni passing with an array of women
the legendary 41-year old Ignatov was certainly the most-watched
convention participant. The crowd gathered daily as he began his
practice on the gym floor. His deliberate warm-ups began with
stretching while seated, and then he worked from one ball or one
club up to the numbers.
the first day of the convention he flashed 11rings, which was
particularly impressive since he had just started back juggling
after a two-month vacation. He also managed long runs with nine
rings, a pirouette with seven, and pancake throws with five. With
balls, he worked up to seven, using bright orange balls larger than
softballs. The highlight of his club work was the way he could play
while working with five, running bock and forth with the pattern to
his skill and position of respect in the minds of jugglers, Ignatov
is uncomfortable talking about himself in terms of
"greatness." He knows he is very good, but he prefers to
talk about the people he most admires, like Francis Brunn, Kris
Kremo, Bob Bramson, and Michael Moschen. He said, "Michael
Moschen is my friend. I met him when I was in the United States. I
think he is wonderful."
also admires Anthony Gatto, whom he met several years ago in Monte
Carlo, and jokes about the difference in their ages, saying, "He
is something like a son for me."
said the focus of his juggling for the next year will be his trip to
the IJA festival in St. Louis July 1621. He is designing a new
routine, with new costumes and music, specifically for the event.
if post experiences hold true, he should be at the top of his form. He
said he usually is at his best in June and July, after which he takes
a one- or two- month vacation. He then spends September to May
building back up to form.
he said his absolute best form was 11 years ago. In Oldenburg he
showed videotapes of himself from that period, using slow-motion to
point out his perfect form. His pride and self-confidence showed on
those occasions without a hint of arrogance. He admits he is post his
prime, but it does not seem to bother him. He is more concerned with
the art and the performance than with juggling the most objects. He
said he is not concerned with world records, but only with how his
personality emerges in performance.
Age makes it harder and harder for Ignatov to stay in shape and keep his juggling form. But he said he has gotten better at knowing how to do it. He jogs and works out with weights regularly, and forces himself to take a vacation every year. Outside of juggling, he and his wife, Marianna, who assists him in his act, visit museums and enjoy fine arts.
The antics of Gerd von Mobile, aka "Suckerman", in the public show (Karin Hertzer photo)