Page 15                                            Fall 1991



Contact Juggling

By James Ernest. Ernest Graphics Press, Second edition 1991. Black & white,

94 pages soft cover. $10.


Here's the image: it's Club Renegade, back in 1988 at the Denver IJA festival, and .. the time is well into the morning hours. A small figure makes his way onto the stage, and using just one large red stage ball, exhibits such control over it that the crowd goes utterly, insanely wild. A good portion of this "juggling" becomes many viewers' favorite part of the 1988 Festival videotape.


"Contact Juggling" by James Ernest is the only book currently produced that exclusively addresses this skill of handheld ball rolling and manipulations.  Ernest differentiates contact juggling from other forms of juggling by defining it as "manipulations of single objects or object groups involving very little tossing or spinning." While this leaves the meaning open for clarification and further definition, it does allow it to stand apart from toss, balance and gyroscopic juggling.


While this book is surely to be of the greatest interest to the juggling world, the author has left his market open to the public by including some basic descriptions of the different forms of juggling. This book would appeal to anyone who has witnessed

an individual possess control over a single ball, rolling it around seemingly by magic, such as Michael Moschen's "stunt" work for David Bowie in the film Labyrinth.


The book has been designed to be an instructional workbook, with multiple illustrations scattered about the text. It starts with basic (and helpful) warm-up exercises to let the reader feel comfortable with the smooth gliding movements found in all forms of contact juggling. Basic one-ball moves are discussed in detail, and then those basics are combined and altered until it seems that the ball has a mind of its own, rolling and maintaining contact with the body.


Two balls are discussed next, and many techniques discussed are one ball moves done in each hand. Then the real fun be­gins. Ernest explains how hands exchange two balls in a flowing transition.


A contact juggling skill that has always impressed me is "palm circles." Rotating

two balls in the palms of hands has a mesmerizing quality, and the author discusses not only two but up to four rotating balls in each hand!


Other multiple ball manipulations that Ernest discusses include the walking cascade, an incredible looking trick that makes the balls look like they are rolling out in one direction while the actually stay in the same place. An especially appealing technique is a cascade done with contact juggling; the balls seem to be continually dropping onto the tops of both hands.


There are four appendices in the back of Contact Juggling: a materials listing with suggestions on the types of balls to use (though it is sorely missing the names and numbers of propmakers, the author does suggest places you might be able to find crystal balls); an introduction to the three ball cascade and devil sticks; Understanding Juggling, some very interesting insights into the juggling world; and a glossary (this is useful because so many techniques and skills presented here are different from any the average juggler would come upon otherwise.)


While the information contained in the book is worth the price alone, the physical attributes make it one of the best designed juggling instruction books available. In an 8 1/2 x 11 format, the book is bound so that you can lay the pages open in front of you on the floor or a desk, and can practice while looking at the illustrations. The type and illustrations (drawn by the author) are very clean and easy to understand.


The main drawback to this book is that after working with some of the tricks mentioned here, the book seems to run short of ideas and advanced techniques. Overall, Contact Juggling is a great introduction to possibly the most fascinating and mesmerizing juggling skills you can possess.

by Ted Alspach

James Ernest, author of "Contact Juggling", demonstrates the art in a St. Louis Festival workshop.  (Giduz photo)

James Ernest, author of "Contact Juggling", demonstrates the art in a St. Louis Festival workshop.  (Giduz photo)

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