EJC 2009 day 7: Gala Show

The EJC Gala Show is a variable affair. This year’s wasn’t one of the best. Some of the acts were amazing, of course, but this kind are typically the ones I’ve seen before.

Here’s the rundown:

We show our tickets and spend some time under balloons. This is always a lot of fun. The balloon sculptures went above and beyond anything I’ve seen. Not only did the balloon artists decorate the show venue, they even did what the technicians should have done at the start of the week, and covered the skylights around the stage. With tightly woven black balloons! I can’t even imagine how much work that took.

The host of the show, I don’t recall his name, was this guy:

He had various costumes and characters, all them funny and obnoxious in equal parts. I really didn’t like so much of what he did, but at some points found myself grinning and laughing along with his despicable antics. Then I’d think “No wait, I hate this guy!” When performing for an international audience, I understand you can’t rely entirely on spoken comedy, so physical comedy is a good way to go. Unfortunately this resulted in long sketches between each act, which didn’t help with the flow of the show, and didn’t help introduce the following acts. And miming a masturbating and ejaculating chimpanzee was just weird.

So, the first act: Jens Sigsgaard juggled some balls. I liked this act a lot. I’ve commented about it before, that it is one of the best examples of juggling-lead body movement. So often you have dance and juggling, but the elements could be performed separately, but Jens has a style where each relies so heavily on the other they couldn’t be split at all.

Second act: Florian (spelling?) Lestag (even more unsure about this spelling). This is the same guy who blew me away with his club and walking stick act in the Experimental Show. But in this show he did a remarkably dull devilstick act. With a really bizarre “costume”.

Third act: Jeanine performed her Ball-dance routine. I’ve seen this before many times, but still really like it. She was also without her normal costume, but to be honest I liked her less formal attire better. Here are some nice photos, none of which show her face:

Shadow on black.

Forth act: Kagu. A small boy juggling balls in an adequate way. But haven’t we seen him perform on the open stages at the last three EJCs, including this one? Something new, please!

Fifth act: a guy in a hoop, pity I can’t remember his name. I like this skill a lot, and he performed with style. No costume… but I think that was the point.

Sixth act: guy with clubs. Some nice skills, but not really a whole lot going on except the nice skills. However, the skills were enough to make this act one of my favourites of the show. Pity he had no costume.

Seventh act: Agnes from Germany and her amazing cycling skills. A pretty standard trick cycling act, with all the standard tricks. You notice I’ve been complaining about the lack of formal costumes so far? Well, maybe they’re all trying to avoid costumes like this one. It was the worst costume I’ve ever seen. And then she took her top off in the “Now look at me being sexy!” way, and the costume got even worse! And her music choice was bizarre. Random songs would start and stop in random places… Golden Eye into My Way? No idea what was going on there.

Still no interval… turns out there wasn’t one. For so few acts it certainly felt loooong.

Eighth act: Defracto. A good act… but didn’t we see this on the open stage last year? A standing ovation on an open stage is pretty much an invite to the following year’s gala show. I also saw it at Chapter 2 and the Berlin convention. Good characters, interesting tricks, fun attitude. What’s not to like? Well, I do have some slight issues, but I think they’ll be solved with more performing experience.

Ninth act: Sergei Ignatov Jn. juggled some rings. Then some balls with blades that I think, maybe, make them a bit more floaty in the air. Sergei is a professional, so performed his act flawlessly. It’s a pity nothing in his act “grabbed” me, except the fact he can juggle 5 ring backcrosses. And his costume was a bit strange. And his act seemed to last only 2 minutes.

Tenth (last) act: Gricha (I know I’m getting this name wrong) from the Ukraine. Dressed as a conductor, juggled balls and span around a whole load. He’d put water on his head, so when he span he sprayed drips off in all directions. I loved this effect. He did three balls (with triple pirouettes), five, nine and then seven. Again this act felt very short, but maybe it was his high energy rather than lack of material.

The finale included a call for the entire orgs team to come on stage for a round of applause. Thanks to them all for making this convention a success.

Overall, the show was alright. A bit too juggle-centric. I like Gala Shows to have variety, and expose jugglers to things they wouldn’t normally see.

Thinking in the box comment: if you’re going to put on a gala show, pull out all the stops! Don’t just look to previous EJCs for acts, look outside. And if you book an act, at least make sure they have a costume. I don’t mind seeing people try tricks wearing shorts and tshirts, but the place for that is on the open stage. All of the acts in the Gala Show should be the type that are almost too good to be in an open stage show.

And here’s the thing: except for there being two of these shows, and you had to have a ticket to get in, there was nothing that distinguished it from other shows here at the EJC. The Spanish, Special, Experimental and Wes-Patrick shows in the same venue all had better acts, as did the open stage shows. Of course you’ll have more “dud” acts on the open stage, but there shouldn’t be a single dud act in the Gala Show.

So what’s the point of the Gala Show? Tradition, I guess.

Thinking outside the box comment (though not very far): forget the Gala Show. It costs too much to put on, usually requiring the hiring of an off-site venue. The only thing it provides is a common experience for all the conventioneers, and they only feel obligated to attend because there is a ticket with cash value attached to the event. Without the ticket, nobody would care more about it than any other show.

Still book the same acts to perform at the convention, but put them in the open stage or other special shows. This way, no matter what show they see, the conventioneers will see at least one killer act at the close of the show.

This is what happened at the EJC in Ptuj, and you know what? It worked. Every open stage show had a ton of energy, and was packed every night. And nobody complained about the lack of a gala show.

I have other ideas about running shows at EJCs, but I’ll save them for another time. My conclusion for this year’s Gala show is simply… nothing more or less than any other show at the EJC.

EJC 2009 day 7

Ok, so on Thursday night I hosted the last open stage show. I think I mentioned it was a looooong show, due to everyone wanting to perform at the last minute. There were also many, many other issues with the organisation of the show, problems that have been solved many times in the past, and yet some people are incapable of learning. Pola said she would be a stage hand, but instead of like last year, when such a job was really fun, it was just stressful and unenjoyable.

Thankfully all the problems were sorted by the time the show began, and the entire thing played off without a hitch. I also got to see some fun new acts, the most enjoyable being Yann Frisch from the Lido School in Toulous. He did juggling and slight of hand magic, and the audience loved it. I saw the act from behind, so could see all the tricks, but still thought it was great. We didn’t put him in the show to begin with, but so many people said “You have to! He’s the best act!” that we gave him a spot in the end. I’m glad we did!

On a personal note, my hosting of the show went pretty well. I think I could have done better in some places, but the sheer length of the show made it quite a taxing job. I performed my 3 ball and coat routine, a very old act, but of course it was new to most of the audience. Four or five people told me the next day that it was their favourite act of the show! I also sang A Cappella on stage, something I’ve never done before, and juggled while I hummed. It was a good test run on the “My Favourite Things” routine I plan to make. No (unintentional) drops, but I did step backwards and knock my prop case over at one point.

I guess I went to bed soon after. I can’t really remember.

On to Friday!

When cycling in Pamplona the other morning, broken glass lay all over the streets. The back tire of my bike popped. So yesterdays I went shopping for bike-fixing bits and pieces, and looked for a launderette.

While I was in town I thought I’d check out the Europahall, the workshop venue about a kilometer from the main convention site. I didn’t do any workshops, but looked around the halls and squash courts taking photos:

Then I picked up all the dirty clothes and spent a the afternoon reading in the launderette, then reading on the grass back at the convention site. What a life!

I fell asleep, of course, but woke up in time for the gala show.

Unfortunately, the photos from the gala show are taking ages to upload, so I think I’ll skip writing about it for now, and make a separate dedicated post.

Following the gala show Pola and I ate together for the first time that day, then I went to the 24 hour gym to work on organising the EJC Celebrity Fight Night. I wasn’t sure if there was much interest though, so just joined in with the ongoing combat session. So many people asked “When is the Fight Night happening?” that I pulled my finger out and started asking people to take part.

Pola planned to host the event, but we had no mic and amplification, and nobody could hear her voice. That meant I had to take over after about 30 seconds, and we swapped jobs; Pola keeping track of scores and I introduced the fighters.

For those that don’t know, the Fight Night event is a one-on-one three club combet tournament, with good and/or interesting players invited to take part. Last night we had 12 fighters, and I ran the tournament using a variation on the Swiss system, one which matches up abilities so each player can lose a game and still come second or third, depending on how many points they scored. This is actually what happened, with Bar from Israel and Andreas from Aachen battling for third place, even though they both lost their first games.

However, the winner is decided by a match between the only two players who win their first three matches, so for them it feels just like a straight elimination event. JJ (Jochen) from Berlin made it to the final without having a single point scored against him, going 3-0, 3-0, 3-0. I won all my matches, but normally I let early opponents take a one or to points, just to make the fights more dramatic. That said, I don’t think I could have taken Till without dropping a point.

JJ beat me in the final game though, and quite easily. The same as at the Berlin convention last month, and the same as the EJC in Athens two years ago. Jochen’s just too good! No wonder people call him the Terminator.

I’ll just settle for second place. I’ve now come second in four out of the five EJC Fight Nights so far, twice beaten by Jay Gilligan in the final round, and twice by Jochen. What I really want to see is a tournament with both Jochen and Jay taking part, with Wes Peden and Flo added for good measure. And me. Actually, I can’t remember anyone else winning a Fight Night tournament except, Jochen, Jay, me or Aaron Greg, so maybe he should join in too. I might try to make this happen at next year’s EJC.

Following my defeat, I played more combat, then showered and headed off to bed, via an attempt at uploading some photos in the info tent.