EJC 2009 day 3

Late blog post… last night the internet cut out mid-email checking. Not many people cared though, as it was about four in the morning. I cared a bit though, as I wanted to upload some photos and make this blog post.

Here’s what I wrote:

This morning I had some boring things to get out the way. Washing up, more shoe shopping (I left my walking boots in Lisbon), hair clippers shopping (lost the comb attachment somewhere), bread shopping (fresh hot bread…. hmmmm), then cutting my hair.

The weather today wasn’t so good as yesterday, so the plan of sitting in the sun wasn’t going to cut it. Instead I went to the gym to juggle. The slight wind and overcast sky drove not only me inside, but loads of other jugglers too. yesterday the hall felt a bit dead, but today it was rocking. I had a good ring juggling session, but broke one of my “how not to hurt yourself while ring juggling” rules, and threw a stupidly high throw for no reason. I caught it wrong and hit the bone in my thumb really hard. Juggling suddenly became un-fun.

Thankfully Wes and Patrick turned up and began juggling right in front of me. This meant I could hang out and watch some kick-ass routines and skills. I can’t wait for their show on Wednesday evening. It’ll be worth it if only for the mind-boggling 5 club routine they practiced this afternoon. Oh, and they almost got 13 clubs passing on ultimates for 26 passes caught. Bonkers.

See all the photos so far? No? Well, I forgot to take the camera to the hall.

I juggled a bit more, sticking to two and three ring tricks. Soon I felt to hungry, so I returned to the van for food. At 7pm I headed over to the show venue with Emil for the “Special Show”.

I can’t remember what I wrote about the venue so far, but it is quite strange. It is a sports hall with loads of seating, which is great. Unfortunately the ceiling has huge windows that have no curtains or blinds, so light just pours in. This creates a very strange atmosphere, as the audience can see each other as well, if not better, than what is happening on stage:

View of the stage, show in progress.

I enjoyed the show last night, but tonight’s show left a lot to be desired. For a special show, there really wasn’t much special about it. I’m not even sure why it happened at all, as the acts wouldn’t have been out of place on an open stage. Some trapeze artists opened. A football juggler followed. Neither act really grabbed me.

Footballs, dancing, juggling and chewing gum.

Seb, from France via Bristol, did a smooth club juggling routine. I liked it, though he could have had less drops. Next on stage appeared two female contact jugglers, who performed two tightly choreographed routines. I said to Emil: “The people at the front of the auditorium will love this, and those at the back will hardly even clap.” My prediction proved half-true, everyone clapped at least a bit, but the visibility of the act made a big difference. Such a huge hall is hard to accommodate in your act, especially if you’re using transparent balls. I’d like to see the routine, but sit a bit closer to the front.

Next up was “a performer from a country that is both in Europe and Asia”… Kubilai, a friend of Pola’s from Turkey, suddenly perked up… “from Moscow, please welcome on to the stage…” Kuilai’s shoulders slump. The juggler used silver sticks. I saw him in the gym, and liked his style. On stage he did very little that couldn’t be done with clubs, and what he did do resulted in too many drops. He took 5 or 6 attempts at his final trick: a numbers juggling feat. Yawn…

Lorenzo! Fantastic, as usual, and got a standing ovation. Of course he did, he’s a real professional.

Ok, remember the photo above? The one that showed how light the hall is? The next act was a solo club juggler who used glow clubs. And again he did nothing that couldn’t have been done with normal clubs. And even those tricks weren’t that interesting. Final trick: 5 club backcrosses. 5 attempts, but for some reason kept trying the trick after getting it dropless on the third attempt. Not sure why.

Final act: a tedious ball juggling and acrobatic act featuring three men and a table. I’ve no idea why this was the last act. It started dull and went nowhere. A collection of tricks and and moves does not a routine make.

And that was it. One great act that I’ve seen maybe 8 times now (Lorenzo and his hats), and two acts that were quite nice. Oh, and because the host, Jon, is also the EJA President, we had loads of business announcements between the acts. I guess some of it has to be shared, but it could have been shared a lot quicker. Overall, not really worth seeing.

Pola and I cooked and ate spaghetti cabonara.

I decided to skip the open stage show tonight and head back to the gym to see if I could get a game of combat going. Turns out I didn’t need to start anything, as a large game was already in progress when I arrived at 10:10 pm. I stopped playing at about 3 am. This is why I love the EJC: 5 hour games of combat are not only possible, but they stay fun throughout. I only stopped because my forearms were absolutely knackered. Here are some photos…

View of the hall from the balcony.
JJochen playing combat.
Knocking out ladies.

– Winning three games in a row many times.
– Jochen (JJ) turning up, and re-enthusing the players.
– In JJ vs Luke two-player-remaining situations, winning more than I lost (I think).
– Coming up with a new objective in each game: finish and win after stealing enough clubs so you are no longer juggling any of your own clubs. Jochen managed this, I didn’t.
– Saying to Matty “I’ll finish playing once I’ve won two more games” and then winning two games in a row.
– Matty said “Everyone says they’ll stop after a few games, but stay for loads more.” I proved him correct, and stayed for another game… and won it!
– Did I stop playing after three wins? Nope! I played a forth game, and dropped second or third last.

– Just me and a young female juggler remaining, and she wins by hitting me in the mouth with her club. I didn’t drop, but had to stop. Actually quite funny.
– Various other injuries. Some mine.

This is after a few minutes playing. By the end of the session I had five cuts, not just two.

I popped into the bar tent where, unlike the past few days, the party actually looked fun. For the past few nights there’s hardly been anyone in there. I didn’t stay to party though, as I was knackered from combat, and not drinnking tonight. The plan was to drive over to Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls. It starts at 8am every morning, so we’d have to drive over and find a good spot to watch it late in the night/morning. Pola decided to stay and party, and I’m not about to go by myself.

Instead I sat at the fire spot and watched people play with burning stuff. If you set anything on fire it looks cool…. not sure my photos do the sight justice.

Fire poi.
Fire place.

Then… I wrote this blog post.

EJC 2009 Day 2

Last night, after posting on my blog, I spent an hour juggling in the gym with Emil (no “e” on the end of his name, apparently) and then Malte. The showers in the gym are hot and empty at night, which is usually the case at these festivals. I got to bed at about 4am.

This morning, up and breakfasted by 1030ish. I then hung out in the traders tent. I got some new rings from Beard, then spent some time playing with new props at the Play Juggling stall:

At the Play stall.

At the Play stall.

Checking out the wares.

Checking the stage balls.

Marco trying the clear-shelled Sil-X balls.

Davide, the owner of Play, constantly makes new props and variations on older designs. His latest idea is an under-filled, silicone shelled MMX ball.

They are really, really nice to juggle. Everyone who has tried them really likes the idea. I know I do. Marco and Nata dropped by, and they also gave them a juggle.

Davide and Marco discussing the silicone MMX balls.

Nata trying out some new toys.

For balance; a photo of the Henrys stall:

For balance; the Henrys stall.

Then Daniel, Pola, Emil and I walked into town for some pizza. I’d just had breakfast, but ate pizza anyway.

After pizza.

Following that we sat outside on the grass under a tree. I mainly watched other jugglers, and sometimes watched other jugglers watching other jugglers. I see myself spending quite a bit of time there this week.

Pola and Annette on the grass:

Pola and Annette on the grass.

Becka and Jochen passing:

Becka and Jochen passing.

I had a good juggling session in the 24 gym too, but it was really too hot to stay too long. See photos.albapasser.de for the photo being taken here:

See photos.albapasser.de for the photo being taken here.

I ended up sitting at the side of the gym, taking photos and watching the crazy french dudes throw their mad random multiplexes. The guy on the right is one such crazy random multiplexer:

Jugglers talking in the 24 hour gym.

It seems, after they performed in the opening show yesterday, that quite a few other jugglers seem to be trying the same style of juggling. I think it will take quite a while for anyone else to get to the same level, but once their skills are surpassed (which is bound to happen, just look at every other juggling technique now dominated by 14 year olds) things should start to get really interesting.

I went back to sitting in the sun. Hundreds of other jugglers do the same:

Jugglers sitting in the sun.

After more sitting in the sun, Daniel and I watched the first special stage show. It featured three hosts who, while pretty entertaining, only spoke Spanish, so I have no idea what the theme of the show might have been, and no idea of the names of the acts.

Every act followed the same pattern:
– Start in silence.
– Walk on, do something tedious.
– Luke gets bored.
– Finally start doing something.
– Luke pays a bit more attention.
– Develop the idea into something really cool.
– Luke really enjoys the act right to the end.

However, the producer of the show really needs to work on the logistics of getting people on and off stage, the introductions need to be tighter, and the whole ending the show thing actually needs to happen. The show just faded out, and half the people had left the hall by the time the hosted had finished doing their bit.

My favourite act, by far, was Silva. He performed club juggling in a kung fu style, with home made sound effects (using his mouth). He had a great character, some very slick tricks, and knew exactly when to move on as opposed to trying a trick again. Near the end of his act he did 5 clubs, and I was almost disappointed, as so many club acts finish on a numbers skill, completely disregarding the style and energy of the act so far. But he pulled a very surprising idea out thin air and finished with some of the strongest material. Why don’t more acts do this? Choreograph your routine from end to start, people, I know I do!

Kung Fu Silva:

Kung Fu Silva.

The ball bouncers also rocked out (after a slow start), as did the hat juggler and ring juggler (after a slow start each). Here’s the bouncers:

Ball bounce duo.

What next?

Some food, I think. Pate on toast is really good. I don’t know why I don’t make this a meal more often.

Unlike last year’s EJC, the special shows and open stage shows run hours apart, not at the same time. This means you can see two full shows per night, if you want. Tonight I wanted to, so did.

Now, I know I’m biased, because I organised the open stage shows last yeah, but I really think they need to step up the game this year. Not only is the staging all over the place, but so is the hosting, and the way artists are brought up on to stage is almost insulting. However, my main problem is the variety of acts. Tonight’s show went something like: club juggling, something else, club juggling, something else, club juggling… in other words, there were five club juggling acts in the show, and only eight or nine acts over all. By the time Matle Peter closed the show, we’d already seen whole sections of his act done by other people. Not just the tricks (similar style to both Francios and Becka), but his presentation ideas too (eg. club swinging to syncopated music by Remi). There are ways around this problem, and when we tried them last year they worked. Why take massive steps backwards?

Thankfully the audience found the acts themselves engaging and entertaining. The club juggler who only use one club was great, though I forget his name. The two contact jugglers were similarly interesting. The Belgian guys should never have been allowed on stage, or maybe a renegade stage. Maybe.

But the highlight for most people (myself included) was the act by Francois. He did “experimental” juggling with three planks of wood and three white clubs. Just as the act began to lull, one of his plank sculptures wouldn’t stand up on its own. To remedy this situation, he invited a small boy up on stage with him to hold the planks in place. Pablo, as was the boy’s name, completely stole the show, continually experimenting with the balance and placement of the planks himself, distracting the audience from Francois’ juggling. At one point Francois did a really cool trick, just as Pablo got the planks to balance, and the two halves of the audience both cheered at the same time. Another time (or maybe the same time, I can’t remember) Pablo did something so funny Pola spat her beer down my back. Quite disgusting, yes, but also quite memorable.

As you can see, I didn’t take any photos of the open stage show. I’d put the camera’s battery on charge. So here are some random photos from the afternoon:

I call this art String-Dangling.

More dangling.

After the show I uploaded image files… in fact, I still am uploading the files. It’s taking ages!

EJC 2009 Day 1

I’m at the EJC 2009 in Vitoria, Basque Country, Spain. So far so good! I plan to make a post, with photos, every day, sharing what I’ve been up to.

Today Pola, Emile and I arrived at 4pm. We parked the van in a good spot and looked around the convention site. It’s not all that big, but everything seems to be in place and working smoothly. I’ll post some photos of the site itself later in the week. After shopping (the super market was being briskly emptied by hoards of jugglers) and eating, Pola and I cycled into the city center.

The location for the opening show, and later in the week the games and other shows, is awesome. It’s a huge square/amphitheater with steps and seating on every side, and a temporary stage at one end.

Opening show stage in the city center.

The opening show began, and I quickly decided it wasn’t worth seeing. I needed some new trainers anyway, so spent the time shoe shopping. I returned after the end of the show, and Pola said I’d only missed one good act, but I’ve seen the guys practicing in the gym at conventions before, and they have a cool video (the guys who do massive random multiplexes with clubs… someone leave their names in the comments).

The stage was too far away for good photos, so here are some shots of the audience:

Emile watching the Opening Show.
Emile, our traveling companion for a few days.

Hair clip.
A girl with a cool hair clip.

A line of audience members.
A line of audience members.

The Juggling Times (free) Newspaper.
Someone was handing out free newspapers about juggling and the EJC. It was all in spanish, but looked quite interesting.

More audience.
More audience.

After the show.... combat!
When I got back from shopping, a large group had formed to play combat.

Action shot.
I borrowed some clubs and joined in. I love this game! At the end I won 7 games in a row. Pola asked if I was almost done, so I said “I’ll finish in two games!” I won the next game, and for my final game, everyone else ganged up on me to make sure I lost.

Back at the convention site we celebrated Annette’s birthday.
Happy birthday!

After checking out the 24 hour gym, Emile and I stayed for two acts of the first open stage show.
An act in the first open stage show.

Contact juggling in the open stage show.

I was hungry so left for some more food. Emile said the last two acts were worth seeing; Priam, who I guessed was performing because I recognized his music (I’ve seen his act many times) and group highly inspired by the Gandini Juggling Project. They apparently did one super-cool trick that made the entire show worth seeing all the way through. I hope to see it one day.

Then sat in the info tent and used the free wifi to upload photos and write a blog post.

I miss home.

I’ve now been on holiday for about a month. I’m having a fantastic time. However, I do miss home, mainly for the juggling studio and the fact I live in Berlin. Living in a Fiat Ducato van is fun, but Pola and I can’t exactly host breakfast parties for 37 people, as we did three days before setting off:

big breakfast at home

big breakfast at home

Meanwhile, I put out a new, special episode of the Science Fiction Book Review Podcast. Ender’s Game really is good!