Tossing Balls: Watching Manipulation

Dancing is an art form, as the performance aspect is a live and kinetic display of controlled movements in visually-appealing fashions. In the same respect, one can see juggling as a work of art as well. Much like dancing, it involves coordination and bodily practice, as well as rhythm and style. One of the most brilliant displays of juggling I have seen is Viktor Kee’s stunning act in Cirque du Soleil’s performance of Dralion –>

Viktor Kee Juggling

Juggling embodies the essence of the human condition, as it involves intentional manipulation of objects. The ability to inflict life into objects comes from the innate nature of our species. We have opposable thumbs and incredible brainpower, allowing us to bend objects into our desired shapes and purposes. This has been engrained in our species. As a recreational and performance activity, juggling has many origins. The earliest forms of this activity stem from several ancient cultures around the globe. From the Romans to the Chinese, Egyptians to the Norse, Polynesians to the Aztec, the roots of juggling can be found. In all of these cultures, juggling emanated from the work of entertainers, or ‘fools.’ While their primary concentrations were on recitation of poetry, storytelling, etc, skills such as ball tossing were also commonplace for entertainment.

It is a unique artistic display, as it takes the manipulation of objects into a visually pleasing performance. Juggling follows a pattern and that repetition is not only fluid and appealing, but the nature of the art. We enjoy seeing the flying balls, circling in arcs back to the thrower’s hands. The three-ball-cascade, the most basic and elemental of tosses, is a fluid and infinite loop that can be mesmerizing to viewers. Each ball completes the same cycle and receives an equal amount of attention from the juggler. It is a brilliant cycle of coordination, even at its most basic level. When advanced, the performance can become truly breathtaking.

The varieties of juggling—changing the patterns of tosses, increasing the number of objects, replacing the objects themselves—are ultimately limitless, allowing for a continuing improvement and evolution of the activity. For instance, contact juggling, which involves moving a single ball around the hands and arms as a form of optical illusion, has grown in popularity over the years. Other variants include the more treacherous acts of juggling chainsaws or flames. Unicycles and stilts can be incorporated, and soon the varieties of the performance reach new levels. Yet they all maintain the same fluid and mesmerizing cycles that captivate us. All the varieties can be traced to their entertaining origins around the globe. All of them are forms of art.

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