Page 11                                             Winter 1994 - 95





The 47th International Juggler's Association Festival. Alan Plotkin Productions for the IJA. Montague MA. Approximately 90 mins. $35.


The festival video is here! Alan Plotkin Productions has done a fine job in documenting not only the main events of last summer's festival, but also in giving a sense of the energy, silliness and vast array of juggling skill that enveloped Burlington last summer.


After a brief introduction showing us the loveliness of Vermont's natural environment, the video tracks some of the incoming participants who hail from all over the country and many parts foreign. This is followed by brief looks at the three entrants in the Team Division: Dam, Good &: Funny (Silver) with some solid three-person formations in unusual combinations, Clockwork's (Bronze) funny and inventive flower pot routine, and Crash and Burn (Gold) performing a very smooth series of passing routines with clubs and hoops.


After an interlude of individual jugglers working out and learning new stunts, an interesting sequence of Volley Juggling follows. I've not seen this stuff before. I was amazed at the energy and control the players had in this combination of juggling and volleyball. I suspect this could be a new fad if the IJA plays it right!


Next is a sequence of jugglers who performed for the CBS Good Morning America show. Garbo, Masahiro Mizuno, Michael Menes, Randy Judkins and others provide quick snippets of juggling performances made­to-order for instant morning television. Following the CBS section is a quick overview of many and varied small stage acts: the late night, smaller venue numbers that often hold surprising skill and interest to those looking for the unusual and daring. Avner the Eccentric is then showcased in a brief excerpt from his command performance.


The Junior Competition section starts with a wonderful and inspiring sequence from Casey Boehmer's act (Bronze). Watching the smoothness and confidence he possesses, in spite of his physical limitation, is a show-stopping event. Artiom Khomenko's flashy Silver medal routine follows, and it ends with Joey Cousin (Gold), who expertly and swiftly performs clubs, rings and a nifty three ball sequence. This is followed by a long sequence of short takes with various performers, audience members and participants.


The Jon Held Dancers' imaginative group juggle with the Vermont Youth Orchestra is then highlighted, though the group is, unfortunately, not credited. Numbers jugglers are then featured, followed by the Big Parade through town, outdoor demonstrations, and competitions (including the joggling, obstacle course and combat juggling events).


The final section of the video gives us a good look at the Senior competition with Martin Mall's Bronze performance with diablo, part of Brian Patz's Silver with a smooth ball routine, and Tony Duncan's Gold Medal performance featuring hand rolls, 3-ball combos, with lots of body throws and contact juggling. In a very nice touch as the credits roll, the video lists all the competition statistics, with various awards and/or times/numbers included.


The video is interspersed throughout with brief shots of jugglers of all types and styles, giving us a very wide sense of the variety of skills that made it to the festival. The video quality is excellent and I found the audio quality very good, especially during workshop and performance tapings. The IJA Annual Festival Video of '94 is professionally done and is well worth the price.


Crystal Stix Video Magazine, Vol. 1. With Bill And Janet Vestal. Crystal Stix, Crestone, CO. Approx. 30 mins. $7.00 plus $3 handling.


There are a number of things to like about the Crystal Stix Video. Bill Vestal - outfitted in a tie-dye t-shirt and Cameleon-style pants, with long white pony-tailed hair and well-tanned shoulders - is energetic and engaging, if a little breathless.


The first 15 minutes provide a good, basic overview of how to get started with the Crystal Stix (his version of the devil sticks). The techniques are broken down in an easy-to-understand way, with Vestal and his wife, Janet, demonstrating their improvisations on the taught technique. The techniques move from the basic back and forth to flips, helicopter spins, two­handed maneuvers, large body motions and turns (what Vestal calls "claiming your bubble"), and finishes with some special variations such as the one-hand helicopter and a nice infinity-shaped movement requiring a gentle yet firm touch.


Here the juggling video suddenly stops however, and really becomes a kind of informercial. Bill tells us that he's hungry and the next thing we we know we are in Vestal's kitchen preparing a special fruit concoction with "Green Magic Spirulina." We are then given a 1-800 number through which we can order our own jar of the preparation, though no price is quoted. Then comes a young entrepreneur who apparently works in a tent at Renaissance fairs selling something called the Cameleon, a large, specially-shaped and configured piece of material that can be shaped into pants, dress, cowl, sleeping bag, etc. It is a very imaginative piece of work, though the presentation reminds me of the Ronco potato peeler / bottle washer / fingernail clipper slicer / dicer act. Again, you must call the special 800 number just to find out what it costs.


Ultimately, the Crygtal Stix video seems a marriage between juggling, New Age ideas on nutrition and living style, and free-wheeling entrepreneurial capitalism. Nothing wrong with that, of course, and I have no problem with someone selling his wares, but jugglers please take note. This video is only partially about learning to juggle devil sticks, albeit at a nominal price.


An Introduction to Devil Sticks with Noelle Franco. The Idea Machine, Inc. Monee IL. Running Time: Approx. 27 minutes. $29.95.


Ken Benge's Idea Machine has produced another high-quality video aimed at a very particular market: the juggler who wants to learn the basics of devil sticks. The production values and attention to detail is excellent, and a vast amount of information and beginning technique is delivered.


Noelle Franco breaks down the devil stick technique into easily-managed categories, such as: getting started, making or buying your own props and the basic back and forth movement; the half flip; the full flip; between stick flips; helicopter or fIat spin; one hand; ferris wheel; tips on practicing; and special hints and advice.


There is a lot here for a video that lasts less than 30 minutes. Ms. Franco is deliberate and precise in her descriptions, though I sometimes wanted her to address the camera more directly. She concentrates so hard on her sticks that contact with the student watching is sometimes lost.


But that is a very small quibble. I found this tape clear, accurate, well-structured, excellent camera work (the view from the side while devil sticking helps a lot) and techniques broken down into easily-managed pieces. This is a fine tape for any beginning stick juggler - certainly the best of its kind - and would also be valuable for teachers looking for clear demonstrations of basic techniques.         

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