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March / April 1979                                                Volume 31, Number 2



by Karl-Heinz Ziethen


Michael Moschen, now 23 years old, has attracted the attention of some of the finest jugglers in America. His juggling style is completely different from other jugglers. He makes juggling look like something that's natural to him. His style is suave and terribly elegant; so his brilliant act is all about focus. Michael Moschen shows you right away that he doesn't watch the three little balls he's dealing with - that he can smile at you or wipe his nose or dance or look the other way without breaking his smooth rhythms. When he does look at the balls, he makes you pick out a particular pattern ­emphasizing the parallel path of two of the balls, while the third odd-man-outs by leaping over them.


One of his specialties is fire juggling with three torches. His torch swinging act is spectacular and dangerous, unique in this art. Michael recently completed the filming of the fire-juggling scene in Milos Forman's production of Hair with Twyla Tharp, and has appeared as a solo juggler with the Louis Folco Dance Company. His television appearances included the Mike Douglas Show and BBS Special. His three ball juggling won a first prize at the International Jugglers' Association Championship, held in Youngstown, Ohio, 1975. He was also the featured juggler and torchswinger in the second season of the Big Apple Circus in New York.


When juggler Michael Moschen walks into the center of the ring, you forget that circuses are supposed to be dazzling spectacles, special in America. Instead, you are immediately drawn in by the unassuming figure in dark clothes (black jersey and old-fashioned black pleated trousers), curly hair, and a boy-next-door smile. He makes you feel not like a part of a motley obstreperous crowd, but like a specially invited friend. Michael Moschen looked always relaxed and charming as he plays all sorts of tricks: rolling one small ball over his back while subtly shifting to juggling two balls with one hand and holding the third one still in the other hand, then changing back to three balls moving between two hands as soon as we had caught on to his cheating; or lying down on his back and standing up again while balanc­ing a little ball on his forehead. He juggles the small balls as cordially as if he were mixing cocktails. Then he does a very sincere fake cough and you wonder what this guy is up to.


So it's very interesting to hear what Michael Moschen says about himself and his act:

"I never watch other acts; the style for my ball acts I got from comic books."


...I didn't know how to open my act. I didn't want to start with a big trick. I like to start with nothing and build from there. ...I want people to see me and me see them, and have the juggling between us.


...I cough, and then I look up and start making eye contact all around the ring, to find out who's there and why and what they're thinking. To get myself comfortable."


The Big Apple Circus is the perfect place for Michael Moschen. The tent is comparatively small and that means the audience is sitting close enough to get to know each character and to catch the details of his act. It's a European style circus, in which the performers are serious about developing personal style and rapport with the audience. It avoids the commercialism of the mammoth three-ring American circuses. He is right as he says: "I don't like American circuses. They're not personal. The performers do the routines they've been taught and there's no love of what they do. I'm not interested in tricks. I don't use a trick unless it fits into the act. I can juggle five balls, but I won't do it in my act because it's still just a trick. I want my act to be a whole unit, a story."


It's true. Michael Moschen is easy-going, moves beautifully, and although his is not a comedy act, his reserve of clownishness highlights certain moments: one by one, several balls, each looking like an egg in the nest of his hair, roll off his head; Michael staggers forward to catch each one. It is not a trick. It contains a trick. It is an expert integration of movement, rhythm, character, and virtuosity.


Still, he wants me to know, he is a juggler first and a performer second. In truth, he thinks very much like a performer. He knows what he is doing each second. His ap­proach is through movement and space. He likes to watch movement and find logical progression in it. Michael Moschen has a quiet trick as he finishes his three ball act. He blows on a ball and it rolls along the "v" 'made by two fingers and hangs just underneath, gently defying gravity. He likes that little blowing bit not as a gimmick, but as a quiet finish to his act. "It's an illusion, something a little strange. A little nothing."

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