Swirling and looping, rising and falling, the juggler’s tools fly through the air with an elegance surprising in pins and rings, knives, and hatchets. World Juggling Day recognizes the fantastic feats of dexterity and skill required by their demanding art form.
The types of things you can juggle and the styles of juggling are truly far and wide, and some of the most demanding don’t even require that they leave your hands. If you’ve ever been amazed by the seeming magic worked by a juggler’s hands, then World Juggling Day is your opportunity to show them some recognition.
History of World Juggling Day
Juggling day was established by the International Jugglers Association and is dedicated to preserving and spreading the history of the art of juggling. Juggling as an art form is far older than most people credit, going back well over 4,000 years.
The first evidence of juggling as an art form goes back to the wall of a tomb in Egypt. A group of women is seen dancing and performing with up to three balls.
Other forms of juggling can be found in China, where the ancient Chu warrior Xiong Yiliao was reported to practice nòngwán, the art of “throwing multiple objects up and down without dropping.”
Apparently, his skills were so profound that he stepped out between the armies of Chu and Song, and promptly juggled nine balls, so astounding the Song troops that they turned and fled in terror. Such is the magic of juggling.
From there on, the evidence of juggling can be found in Greece, the Roman Empire, on into Medieval Europe and modern-day. Even the Native American’s have a strong history of traditional juggling, there’s even evidence of cultures having juggled with their feet. It’s somehow surprising that it took until 1947 for the International Jugglers’ Association to be formed.
After the fall of Rome and the chaos of the Dark Ages, juggling went into decline. There are few records of people engaging in the activity anywhere in the world. Then, during the early renaissance period, there was a revival. Explorers from Europe reported seeing highly skilled jugglers in the Hindu lands of south Asia and Mexico in the New World during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. And even the Aztecs appeared to have a juggling tradition.
Juggling had suffered in Europe, but things began to change, starting in Nuremberg in 1680. The Town Council there instituted the first paid “ball master” – somebody who would offer their services, similar to a court jester. This professional would often combine juggling with other acrobatic tricks, including rope walking – a bit like a clown.
Over the following years, these early jugglers refined their skills and made their shows more entertaining. The Incomparable Depuis – a French ball master – took things to a new level in the 1700s. His routine involved juggling apples while walking a tightrope and then throwing them all up in the air, skewering them on forks when they landed – one of which was in his mouth.
By the 18th century, juggling had become a staple of the circus community. Traveling bands would thrill local audiences with seemingly impossible feats of ball skill and control, combining it with their other acts. Soon juggling developed into a varied art form, with people experimenting with objects, besides balls. Because so many jugglers were in the entertainment industry, there was a constant need to find new and more exciting things to juggle that would thrill and entertain their audiences. Eventually, knives and burning torches became a regular feature – and something that circus-goers came to expect.
Juggling, however, didn’t remain popular throughout the modern era. The activity went into decline following the advent of cinema. Circus and variety shows suffered as people could get all the entertainment that they wanted on the big screen – they didn’t need to go to a live performance.
Things started to turn around in the 1950s. After WWII, juggling once again became a popular pastime – and people have taken it to even greater extremes.
How to celebrate World Juggling Day
If you know a juggler, the best way you can celebrate this holiday is complimenting them on their skill and perhaps even asking them to perform a little for you, so they have a chance to show off the art they worked so hard at.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you might even take this opportunity to get out and learn a bit of juggling yourself! It’s a fairly simple art to learn, even if it’s incredibly hard to perfect, and it can improve your hand and eye coordination to an amazing degree! So on World Juggling Day, get out there and show your love to a juggler, or become one!
Setting out on your juggling journey can be a daunting experience. Skilled professional jugglers make it look easy, even when juggling five or more objects. But, like most skills, it requires you to start with small challenges and then work from there.
The trick to juggling effectively is learning how to juggle two balls in one hand. This movement teaches you to toss the ball in your hand before the one in the air lands. Most people can pick up this skill in a day or two. After that, the next step is to throw balls between both hands while maintaining at least one in flight.
If you do manage to develop your skills, you can celebrate World Juggling Day by posting your progress on social media. You can show off your skills. Plus, if you get good, you can combine juggling with other skills, like tightrope walking.