EnlargeThomas Ondrey, The Plain Dealer
Juggler Chris Moran concentrates on his club passing while attending The Cleveland Circus, a juggling convention hosted by Case Western Reserve University on Sat. Oct. 20, 2012. (Thomas Ondrey/The Plain Dealer)
Without a trace of anger, Owen Smith and Lynn Hay spent part of Saturday resolutely hurling clubs at each other.
They were surrounded by others tossing large rings, cigar boxes, clubs and balls of various sizes toward the ceiling of Adelbert Gym on the Case Western Reserve University campus.
It was all part of a free event called the Cleveland Circus, which continues today until 3 p.m. The CWRU Juggling Club organized the weekend, drawing around 60 jugglers from around the country.
Jonathan Duff, the club’s president, said it will be back next year.
Mid afternoon, Jessica Rutsky of Solon gave a tutorial on cigar boxes. The idea is to manipulate three or more as one might move books on a shelf. But the only thing holding them aloft are a pair hands, one at each end of a horizontal stack.
“I’m going to be a juggling doctor,” she said, very much in earnest. She will enter medical school next year, but does not know which one yet. Some of her inspiration came from a pediatric neurosurgeon at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, whom she shadowed while still in high school.
“He was also an Elvis impersonator,” she said. That didn’t inspire the juggling, but influenced her career choice and demonstrated that there are many forms of bedside manner.
Rutsky took up juggling at Solon High School and pursued it with more vigor while majoring in biology and Spanish at Vanderbilt University.
Aaron Bonk, a former Cuyahoga County resident, taught Devil sticks late Saturday morning. Two are held much as one would grasp a pair of drumsticks. A third stick is tossed, spun, twirled and otherwise kept in constant motion by manipulating the hand-held sticks.
He’s gone pro, lives in Clearwater, Fla., and his repertoire includes balls, sticks, clubs, knives, a chainsaw, fire, and whip cracking.
There were actually two skill sets on display at the gym, those of the jugglers, and also of a small group of vendors who cater to them.
Gregory Poche of Detroit had a range of juggling balls on display, in various sizes and colors. They are covered in a synthetic product called ultraleather that is more durable than the real thing. Some are filled with millet, a kind of birdseed, and others with plastic pellets.
He gave up a career in information technology and now sells his balls worldwide, he said. But he will not reveal his construction methods and never lets anybody watch him on the factory floor, which is wherever he happens to be sitting in his house.
Mitch Silver also made a career switch, abandoning a law practice to open a store in Erie, Pa. the specializes in juggling equipment. He makes some, has some specially made and also carries the products of other producers.
One of the more unusual products is wrought by the hands of Matthew Ray, a Bowling Green State University student. The juggling balls are made out of chain mail, originally a kind of medieval body armor composed of interlocking chain links. Ray’s are filled with a kind of gel and are big hits at Renaissance fairs.
Later in the day, Bonk did a workshop on hat tricks, which have nothing to do with three hockey goals. He showed how to pick up a hat with one foot and toss it onto your head, to flip a hat off the head and let it roll down the arm, and other feats that he associated with what he called gentlemen jugglers and debonair dance men, including Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.
Someone asked him how long it took to master the skill.
“I’ll let you know when I do,” he said with a self-deprecating laugh.