Contact juggling is a form of object manipulation that focuses on the movement of objects such as balls in contact with the body. Although often used with "toss" juggling, it typically involves the rolling of one or more balls on the hands and arms to create visual illusions without releasing the props into the air. It is divided into three main techniques:
Some of the manipulations, such as balancing or rolling a single ball, or Palmspinning (see "Baoding Balls"), have been performed for centuries. Contact juggling in its modern form originated with a routine called "Light" developed by Michael Moschen in the 1980s. In this performance he used 75mm clear crystal balls, palm spinning up to eight balls simultaneously. He finished the act by rolling a single clear ball so that it appeared to float over his hands and arms. Moschen received high regard from the international circus community for his range of innovative new techniques, and was awarded the MacArthur genius grant in 1990.
In the 1986 film Labyrinth, David Bowie's character performs contact juggling throughout the film. These manipulations were performed by Moschen who stood behind Bowie during filming, reaching around and performing the tricks "blind." In the film's credits, Moschen is credited for "crystal ball manipulation".
In 1991 shortly after the video "Michael Moschen: In Motion" (also "In Motion with Michael Moschen" from PBS "Great Performances" series) was released, James Ernest, a games developer, wrote the book Contact Juggling. Ernest may be the originator of the term "Contact Juggling," as Moschen did not have a name for what he did. This form of juggling received further popularization through instructional materials and performances developed by jugglers other than Moschen, but which refer to props as well as manipulations that he had created and performs. This led to some contention within the juggling community in the 1990s regarding whether Moschen's ideas were being stolen by performers (see below).
By 2000, there were many resources available for contact jugglers, such as clubs, books, festivals, videos/DVDs, and balls specifically manufactured for contact juggling.
The online presence of contact juggling began with a Yahoo! discussion group in late 1999 and later formed into www.contactjuggling.org which serves the English speaking community with tutorials, forums, and videos. Since then, other international contact juggling forums have served jugglers in Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, German, and French.
In September 2001, the first contact juggling convention (CJC) was held in Florida, USA. Two of the attendees were British contact jugglers Daniel Kerr and Andy Wilson, who then organized the first contact juggling convention in Europe (BCJC). It was held in Scotland in 2003, and included a public performance to allow the general public to learn about contact juggling. Since then, contact juggling conventions have been held in various countries around the world, as well as contact juggling workshops being taught juggling festivals and circus schools.
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