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.

EJC 2009 day 6

I don’t have much to write about today. I got up late, then spent pretty much the entire afternoon, evening and night getting ready for hosting the open stage show. And then hosting it. It went quite well, I think, even the show was really long (16 acts in total). There were major issues in the organisation, or the lack thereof, but I can’t be bothered to write about it now.

Actually, I think I might just go to bed and write more tomorrow.

Here’s today’s photo; Rumple at it again!


EJC 2009 day 5.

Yesterday blended into today. I’m not sure where to draw the line. Certainly not midnight. 

At 4 AM Pola, Emil and I met at the van, packed our stuff, and I drove us over to Pamplona. We arrived at about 6, and found our way to a spot I judged might be good. We stood close by as the carpenters built up the fences, and quickly scooted in to hold our place.

That done, we just had to wait for about an hour and a half for the bulls to run. If we’d have got there even a slight bit later we’d not have seen anything. As it happened we had about as decent a view as possible with a complete lack of inside knowledge.

Luke and Pola in Pamplona.

The medics and police and photographers turned up and spread themselves in between the layers. Also thousands of party-goers dragged themselves to the fences. I didn’t realise just how huge this festival was as a drinking/dancing carnival.

Police inside the double fence.

With about ten minutes to go the route filled up with runners. Again, there were a lot more than I expected. At eight exactly a cannon sounded, and the runners started freaking out. Some bailed immediately, and scooted under the fence to safety. Maybe they only joined the run to get a good view, behind just one fence instead of two. Who knows.

Then the bulls arrived, rushed past, with runners sprinting out the way. It looked a lot less dangerous than I imagined, but there are a few reasons for this: most video and photos are from the start of the run, where the bulls are less tired and faster, the road is narrower and the runners closely packed, and the photos are selected for drama anyway.

Bull one!

Bull two!

Pola took these photos without looking, but they capture the action quite well, I think. The entire event felt like a theme park ride; you wait for two hours for a two minute experience. I wouldn’t bother going to see it again though. Not just to watch, I mean, I’m thinking of going back in a few days to have a go at the running myself. As I said, the spot where we watched seemed pretty safe… comparatively.

So, then I drove back to Vitoria for the EJC. Or tried to. After half an hour I was just too tired. I’d had just 4 hours sleep in the previous 48 hours. I pulled over for a short power-nap, telling Pola and Emil I’d drive the rest after about half an hour.

Two hour later I woke because the sun was too hot on my face. Pola and Emil had similarly slept, and hadn’t even thought to wake me. Pola drove the rest of the way, and when she finally parked the van I jumped into the back and slept until four.

So… breakfast, a chat to the Aerotech guys about using a Macbook with their programmable balls (I’m thinking of buying a set of three), and a bit of hanging out later, it was time for the Wes and Patrick show. Funnily the program states “Wes Peden and Patrick Gyllenburg” but I think they mixed up their Swedish jugglers somewhat.

Photo: Felix and Malte swapping tricks before the show.
Malte and Felix.

Incorrect billing aside, the show was fantastic. I could go into lots of detail about what I liked, but it would take far to long, and I liked pretty much everything. Standout sections were the four ring part, Wes’ “No Propstand” piece (3 rings, 3 clubs, 3 balls; see Expectations for more details), the drinking bottle, Patrick’s 3 club piece and the “clapping music” part. At one point I teared up a bit because I found the juggling so moving, but that could also be due to lack of sleep.

I don’t think words can really say what the show was like. Maybe photos?

Wes and Patrick.

Standing ovation.

11 club encore.

Actually I just think you needed to be there. Not everyone agreed; some non-juggler friends of ours left early, and a few people fell asleep. I just know that for juggling geeks like myself (and a few thousand others in the audience) the show was simply juggling creativity and choreography porn.

Patrick and Wes.

Food: basil-heavy pasta and sauce (due to a herb jar accident) and more nutella pancakes.

Pola cooking.

Then, for some reason I can’t remember, I went to the open stage show instead of going to play combat with Wes and Patrick in the 24 hour gym. The show had some nice moments, but really wasn’t worth my time. I took some pictures anyway:

Dekal glow diaboloing.

Double ended poi.

Belgian handstand.

Spanish Rola-Bola.

Belgian acrobatics.

Following the show I did play some combat in the gym, but stopped after just a few minutes due to my hurting hand. It’s swollen a bit, and I don’t want to damage it further. I’d have played longer, but it lacked interesting players, and I kept winning about one in four games.

Following that I worked on some material for tomorrow night, as I’m hosting the open stage show. Jon, tonight’s compare, said “Tomorrow is the last open stage show, so sign up if you want to perform…” Great! This means the show will last something like four hours. So maybe I won’t do much of my own material, and instead just get the acts on and off stage as quickly as possible. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

Ummm… then I wrote this blog post.

EJC 2009 day 4.

Pola came to bed at nine thirty this morning. I think that beats my latest EJC bedtime record (except for the nights I just stayed up until the next night). I’d got to bed and sleep at about five thirty though, so it resulted in a quite short nights sleep. I got up at about ten. 

Once I’d got my morning routine over with, I tried uploading photos from yesterday. This turned out to be impossible yet again, as so many people were using the computers the upload speed really suffered. I guess tonight there’ll be two blog posts. But I did get some work done, unrelated to my EJC duties (hanging out). Here are some photos of the internet computers, the workshop boards, the volunteers desk and the registration desks.

Computers for internet.

Workshop board for Wednesday.

Volunteer desk.

Info and registration desk.

I spent the afternoon in the gym. I planned a full ring juggling session, but my hands were aching from the epic combat session last night. All the knuckles on both hands felt swollen somehow. I soon put the rings down and sat around chatting to friends about what I’d missed in the open stage show last night. A few good acts, it seems, though opinions differed on which were the good and which were the bad acts. 

Priam is organising the open stages later in the week, and asked me if I’d host a show. Due to high demand (about a hundred plus people asking me when I’ll be hosting or performing) I agreed to host the Thursday show. 

After some shopping and eating pola and headed over to see the ” Experimental Show”

The special show last night wasn’t special, so I was quite nervous about this one. Thankfully we had no reason to worry; it was by far the best show of the convention. By far. 

The host of the show didn’t give his name. But he rocked. Between every act he did a character sketch or physical comedy bit. Every one was entertaining and, very importantly, quite short. He took the piss out of the acts, and took a pop at the previous nights compare. He danced, played with a skipping rope and got a standing ovation for climbing around a chair. Most importantly he very clearly introduced the acts. More show hosts like this, please! It’s a very simple job…

I sat in the main seating area, not up on the raked sating at the sides, so today’s photos will have a real “in the stalls” feel to them. In other words, they’ll mostly be of the backs of people’s heads. Here’s the host:

The host of the show.

The acts themselves were all very good, if not excellent. The opening act was strange; Alvero did a very non-experimental ring juggling piece. Maybe they put him on as a comparison to more traditional acts. 

Next was an act that, while good, made me a bit angry. It started well, a man juggling balls using a stool. Unfortunately the second half consisted of him sitting on the stool, juggling three balls around his legs and feet. In silence. Yeah, just like Morgan. He even did the same tricks as Morgan at similar points. And then, when he dropped and a ball rolled towards the front of the stage, he threw himself forwards in a panicked dive, exactly the same “dropline” as Morgan. It isn’t as if we haven’t seen Morgan at the EJC before, did he think we wouldn’t notice the blatant ripoff? Because that’s what it was. I don’t mind people letting themselves be influenced by others, but thos act crossed the line. 

Other acts included Marco Paoletti and Wes Peden, who were both very impressive. But two other acts stood out for me. One was a Belgian ball juggler who also manipulated a thick rope.  Very nice indeed. 

In this photo; the Marco asked the host to ask everyone who could balance a ball on their head to do so. A lot of people could do so. If you know Marco, this request will make sense. If you don’t know Marco, he pretty much started the recent trend of balancing a ball on the top of the head:

Marco is now ready to enter the stage.

And here’s Wes rocking the five clubs:

Five club Wes.

The highlight was Fabian from France (I might have that name wrong). He did a perfect act. Club juggling and a walking stick. Also a great character. And a great costume. And the music choice was excellent; an abstract soundscape that didn’t cross overbro obnoxious noise. And he did acrobatics too. And only made on drop. And the tricks and other skills were awesome. I stood up for his standing ovation as soon as I thought he’d finished, but I was nowhere near the first person to do so. Book this guy for your convention now!

Last night Pola complained how so many people leave the shows before the end, walking out before the bowing finale. I didn’t blame the for getting out, as I felt like doing the same. I said “if the show was good, people would stay for the end.”

Tonight only a tiny handful of audience members left early, and the overwhelming majority stayed. The show was simply amazing. It had everything the audience wanted, and they didn’t just feel obligated to stay until the end, they really wanted to show their appreciation with another standing ovation. A compare who actually took charge at the end and made sure the artists had left the stage before the applause died down also helped keep the energy up even as the audience walked out the doors a few minutes later.  


For dinner: pancakes. I ate too many and felt sick.

I skipped the open stage for the second night in a row, and went to hang out in the gym. I wrote this blog post on my iPod Touch, and reached this point here.

After writing the above, I decided I wanted to play combat. I warned some jugglers about me, in an empty-ish part of the gym, that it might get a bit crowded. Then I banged my clubs together really hard. Nothing happened, even after repeating myself for a while.

But then DJochen turned up, and we started a two person game. Still no-one else joined in, so we played another. Then, for the third game, about 15 people joined in. By game number five or six we had about forty jugglers playing, all hitting each others clubs with wild abandon (but not too wild).

To be honest, combat tonight wasn’t so fun as last night. I’m not sure why, but the general vibe was a bit more… serious? Not so sure. In one-on-one matchups with JJochen and I, he won 8 out of 13 times. Not so good as last night.

Someone hit my left hand at some point, I don’t remember when, but juggling became a bit too painful. I decided to stop after about 2.5 hours of play. Of course, I thought I’d try to go out on a win, and mentioned this to Joerg who happened to be watching from the side. After winning once, and mentioning my “Just one more win…” situation last night, I went for a second win in a row. After the second win in a row I went for a third. After a third win in a row I went for a forth. I should have ended one three in a row. The added pressure of this challenge makes me play really hard, but you can only keep going for so long without making a mistake.

After a shower, I dropped Pola off at the van, and I’m currently making a third attempt at uploading the photos from yesterday, as well as those from today. In an hour we’ll be driving off to Pamplona to see stupid American tourists get chased by some bulls. Should be fun.