The brief history of juggling and juggling facts

The rich and stunning history of juggling is briefly, but thoroughly summed up on its Wikipedia site. You are about to see a compilation based on this writing.

Origin and basics

The word juggling derives from the Middle English jogelen (to entertain by performing tricks), in turn from the Old French jangler.
Juggling is a skill involving moving objects for entertainment or sport. The most recognizable form of juggling is toss juggling, in which the juggler throws objects up to catch and toss up again. This may be one object or many objects, at the same time with one or many hands. Jugglers often refer to the objects they juggle as props. The most common props are balls or beanbags, rings, clubs, oranges, apples, and special bounce balls. Some performers use more dramatic objects such as knives, fire torches, and even chainsaws. The term juggling can also refer to other prop-based skills such as diabolo, devil sticks, poi, cigar boxes, fire-dancing, contact juggling, hooping, foot bag and hat manipulation.


Ancient to 20th century

This ancient wall painting (c. 1994-1781 B.C) appears to depict jugglers. It was found in the 15th tomb of the Karyssa I area, Egypt. In tomb 15, the prince is looking on to things he enjoyed in life that he wishes to take to the next world. The fact that jugglers are represented in a tomb suggests religious significance. … In egyptian mythology, round things were used to represent large solar objects, birth, and death as well.

In Europe, juggling was an acceptable diversion until the decline of the Roman Empire, after which it fell into disgrace. Throughout the Middle Ages most histories were written about performers who juggled, called ‘gleemen’, accusing them of base morals or even practising witchcraft. In this era they would only perform in marketplaces, streets, fairs, or drinking houses. Some kings’ and noblemen’s bards, fools, or jesters would have been able to juggle or perform acrobatics.

In 1768 the first modern circus opened. A few years later jugglers were employed to perform acts along with the horse and clown acts. Since then, jugglers have been associated with circuses.

In the 19th century variety and music hall theatres became more popular, and jugglers were in demand to fill time between music acts, performing in front of the curtain while sets were changed. Performers started specializing in juggling, separating it from other kinds of performance such as sword swallowing and magic. Rubber processing developed, and jugglers started using rubber balls. Previously juggling balls were made from balls of twine, stuffed leather bags, wooden spheres, or various metals. Solid or inflatable rubber balls meant that bounce juggling was possible. Inflated rubber balls made ball spinning easier and more readily accessible. Soon in North America, vaudeville theatres employed jugglers, often hiring European performers.

20th century

In the 1950s, the early years of TV, when variety-style programming was popular, jugglers were often featured. But developing a new act for each new show, week after week, was more difficult for jugglers than other types of entertainers; comedians and musicians can pay others to write their material but jugglers cannot get other people to learn new skills on their behalf.

In the early 1950s the International Jugglers’ Association began as a club for performing jugglers and since 1980s, the juggling culture and community has developed.

Popular forms of juggling

Basically there are 6 main types of juggling:

1) Objects juggled
In this type of juggling the main goal is to juggle different types of objects, such as balls, clubs, rings, diabolos, devil sticks and cigar boxes. Unusual objects such as scarves, knives, fruits, flaming torches and chainsaws, may also be used.

2) Method of juggling
The classical and best known form (toss juggling) is throwing and catching objects in the air without touching the ground.Bounce juggling is bouncing objects (usually balls) off the ground. Contact juggling is manipulating the object in constant contact with the body.

3) Performance style
Performance style is basically thematic juggling. It can be done as a gentleman with the relevant props, such as a hat, wine bottle, cigar and cane. Or it can be performed as a sportsman, with bats, racquets and balls (snooker or football as well)

4) Number of objects juggled
The main aim is here to perform exceptionally skillful and impressive manipulations with the objects juggled. The more objects are juggled the more astonishing the tricks are.

5) Number of jugglers
Juggling is mostly performed individually. By increasing the number of players, the difficulty of the tricks might change. These tricks are happened to be much more spectacular than regular one-man shows.

6) Sport Juggling
Juggling is sometimes done as a sport. Organizations such as the WJF promote sport juggling and reward pure technical ability and give no credit for entertainment, or for juggling with props such as knives or torches.

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