Friday, December 5, 2008

I didn't think a middle school medieval feast would be a big deal

I didn't expect, when I went down to Hill Country Middle School to perform this morning, that nearly all the kids and a bunch of adults would be set up in elaborate Renaissance costumes.

On the way over there I started to worry, because the impression I'd gotten was that I'd be on a stage in the cafeteria, while the kids were eating, and I thought I was going to be up there alone for a full hour, and that it would be hard to interact with the kids since they'd be eating.

But because it WAS a chaotic cafeteria environment, I instead wandered from table to table, got right in the kids faces, and did my bit. It was a lot of fun.

They even had baskets of french bread on the tables, so I was able to break and juggle the bread, a favorite Madrigal Dinner trick of mine.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I get to use my medieval costume again this year

I had unpacked my renaissance costume for the University of Texas Madrigal Dinner, and was just glorying in the fact that I can still fit into my tights (maybe it's not a feat to fit into spandex, but humor me...).

Madrigal was a ton of fun, especially since last year was the first year I've skipped it in many, many, many, many, too many years -- years which reveal how very long it has been since I was in college. But here I was, looking at my bright green costume which has lasted for so many years (since it only gets used for one week out of the year)...and then a post on the Texas Juggling Society mailing list asked for a juggler to do a middle school renaissance fest.

So that's my Friday thing this week, juggling for some middle school kids while wearing tights. Should be fun.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Video from school show

I did a show for Highland Park elementary last spring, and someone shot some video of it, which is hosted here. I didn't even know about this...I bumped into it while vanity Googling. :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Getting a show via Craigslist

Someone on the Texas Juggling Society's mailing list posted a job that they found on Craigslist. I followed up with the person and now I'm going to be juggling at a corporate party on 9/15.

It hadn't occurred to me before to keep an eye on Craigslist for things like this, but now I'll be searching it on a regular basis.

Booking a show from the Amazing Aaron

So, you want a juggling show? Here's what you need to do:

View the available shows page to get an idea of what is available, then send e-mail to aaron AT damommio DOT com.

Let me know:

  • The date of the show.
  • The age range of the audience.
  • Any special requests (fire? unicycle?) or things to avoid (fire? knives?)
  • Your contact information (e-mail and phone, including a day-of-the-show phone number for emergencies).
And consider what I'll need:
  • Performance space: Usually a 10' diameter semicircle, unless I'm doing a wandering juggler act.
  • Light: Juggling takes light....lots more than a music act needs.
  • Sound: I don't require sound amplification. But are there other activities going on that will drown out my mostly verbal act? I'll need to know about them; we should discuss the situation. Are there noisy machines? Air conditioners? Musical acts? Yes, I have a painful anecdote for each of these. :)  Hey, I can do a silent act if I need to, but I'd like to know that before I get there. 
When I get your message, I'll get back to you to let you know whether I'm available, quote you a price, and talk about any remaining details.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ringling show this past Saturday

Went to the Ringling Bros. show on Saturday with my oldest daugher (9 yrs). We had a blast. Hardly any juggling at the show, but the graphic design was great. I enjoyed the all black-and-white costumes in the show opening.

There were a lot of height-oriented, heart-stopping bits....some antics at the top of a sway pole and the show climax, a wheel of death.

The sway pole act involves climbing to the top of a long flexible pole. At the top is an apparatus for holding on, and then you make the pole sway. I have to stop there, I might faint. Here's a photo of a sway pole.

The show was heavily aimed at the young, I'd say, except for the danger acts. I doubt the kids got the heart-stopping thing. But after you pay $12 for some cotton candy, your heart is already in danger. :)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Casual juggling at the Round Rock Express game

Okay, I'll pick up things and juggle them whenever I get bored; that's a given. I used to worry about seeming like I'm showing off. But hey, why learn to juggle if you're not going to show off now and then?

We went to a Round Rock Express ball game with my sister and her husband this week. The parklike atmosphere of the .... ball park ... always makes me want to juggle, and I actually juggled there when the cub scouts paraded on Scout Night. But I hadn't brought anything to juggle.

The giveaway that eve, though, was Mr. Potato Heads (with baseball player paraphernalia). So I ended up carrying three or four of them around. And so I had to juggle them.

They were funny things, too. I mean, the potato part was a good juggle item, but everything was in a plastic bag along with it. I noticed that even though THIS version of Mr. Potato Head doesn't have an opening for storing accessories inside it, the makers had scribed a groove for a pretend opening anyway. I'm not sure what the point of modeling a pretend compartment is.

So I'm standing around juggling these things when we're walking around the park, or when I'm waiting for my family to go to the bathroom (three kids, it takes a while). I heard some teenagers hollering things at me..."Oh, you should be on TV" or something like that, but in a snide way. It was nice to be grown up enough to ignore that. And then a few people stopped and were really enjoying the juggling. Same sort of material...pretty routine ball juggling, although I hammed it up for the nice people, of course. But the reaction was completely different.

I'm glad it came in that order, anyway: the bad reaction and then the good one. :)

I spend a lot of time elaborating my act with lots of additional props. It's interesting to see the fun people can get out of something so simple as me juggling three objects I happened to bump into.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Juggled for a big Vacation Bible School program

On June 12 I went and peformed a small piece for the Riverbend church's Vacation Bible School program. The church's VBS program was huge: 840 kids, and the portion I was involved in took place in a giant 3-story auditorium.

The work put into this program was impressive. There was a Nickelodeon-style game-show game, where some of the kids had to attempt to juggle eggs, and when they dropped them, eggs dropped on them from above. And they were gonna drop them. They gave each kid four eggs. :)

The theme was an amusement park, and there was a large motorized ferris wheel, maybe 20' tall, with cardboard seats and riders. And there was another 15' model of an amusment park ride. These were heavily decorated with painted cardboard.

I like to come up with cardboard projects, but these folks put me to shame. Someone told me they used something like 85 9x6-foot pieces of corrugated to do the stage dressing. They had stapled the cardboard to wood frames and painted it all...and the paint job was good.

I shudder to think of how long it would take just to diagram out the complex mural they had for their backdrop. I shudder more to think that it's just going to get torn down after this week is over. :)

There was an impressive amount of creativity in this program, as well as a lot of hard work and some neat engineering. You could tell it really wowed the kids. There was one thing that was super odd about it to my eyes, though: the theme.

All the stories and text were heavily oriented towards the theme of obedience. The script was pretty heavy-handed about this. Now, that's not surprising, I'm sure, in a Vacation Bible School. But it seemed like just the sort of thing that would turn the kids off. Which was odd, because I thought everything else was so well done.

Here's an example: the stage play had three teams of kids. They did an activity where each team had to assemble a puzzle under orders from their leader. The two teams that finished last were told they had "not obeyed quickly enough" and so they had to do the egg juggling activity. I'm sure they loved it. But these highly authoritarian statements made me cringe.

I asked about it, and was told that the script came to them that way. I hadn't thought about it, but I did know that one can purchase bible school programs like these, with scripts and activities prewritten.

Eh, it's probably not much different from what the kids get in school. Am I complaining? Heck no. I want to do more shows like these. I want to see more big flashy carnival-style bible schools. In my mind, each of these should have a juggler on retainer. :)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New show idea: The Massacre of the Carrots

I'm working on a new routine called "The Massacre of the Carrots." The idea is that I'll come up with 20 or more ways to kill a carrot. I've got a list.

It's not so much that carrots have ever hurt me. It's just that they're so darn smug.

Carrots are sort of the canonical thing to use when you do knife juggling and you want to prove the knives are sharp. They're great for that because they're not too messy, and because even dull knives can cut carrots. Heck, you probably know that you can cut a carrot with your finger. Well, my kids didn't know, so I was able to pull that trick on them. It's going into the show.

I need something to tie the whole thing together though. Maybe some way to transition from one carroty death to another.

Oh, it'd be neat, too, to be killed by the carrots myself at the end, maybe. Somehow.

If you've got ideas, add 'em in the comments.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Maybe I need to add long sleeves to my costume...for multi-plate spins

The other week I was at the Texas Juggling Society meeting, had my son along, which was great, and I happened to be wearing a long-sleeved shirt...which I usually avoid when juggling. I don't like having anything down near my hands that might catch on a club handle or whatever. But having the shirt enabled me to come up with a new little trick when spinning plates: it's possible to put a stick in the sleeve of one hand, with a plate spinning on it, and then spin up another plate and hold it in your hand. Might be possible to get two plates going in each hand this way.

5 catches of behind-the-back

I can do five catches now. Just, you know, not every day. I set a goal of 10 catches by the end of April. I think I can get there. Once I get to 10, I think 20 will come pretty quickly.

Juggling for small children

I juggled for my daughter's Mother's Day Out program on Monday, and it got me thinking about juggling for the smaller kids.

Most of my main repertoire is heavily verbal and uses a lot of audience participation and interaction. And I've learned that that's not what goes over well with the smaller kids, the two- to four-year-old set.

I used to think that juggling in general didn't go over all that well with kids that small, actually. But I've learned to tailor my act for the smaller ages. It's not hard. We all have a good time if I:

  • Make sure I speak slowly and clearly
  • Focus on making everything big, broad, and flashy
  • Drop material that that requires participation from the kids
  • Use an adult if I absolutely have to have participation
  • Avoid teasing and subtlety unless aimed at the adults
  • Skip danger-based tricks like knife juggling...they're not really into that
  • Change my expectations...small kids take longer to get jokes and they don't see why some of the tricks are difficult.
And I thought about these things when I planned for this fact, I'd made some notes about this sort of thing the last time I did a show for kids this small. As a result, the last couple of shows I've done for the wee ones have gone really well...very satisfying for all concerned. Not the least of which was my smallest kid. "You were funny, Daddy!" she said. I could have wished she wasn't so surprised... :)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Balance and Motion show at Summit Elementary

I did a Balance and Motion show for the 2nd graders at Summit Elementary last week, and it went really well. I did a thirty minute presentation where I talked about the physics of balance and motion as it relates to juggling tricks, explaining each trick in terms of the vocabulary from the 2nd grade Balance and Motion unit. The kids get a huge kick out of it, and the teachers loved how it ties into the science unit.

I want to perform this routine at more elementary schools, I just need to get contacts at more schools around town.

Of course my daughter really enjoyed it, since she got to be my helper during the show. I brought out my unicycle for this act, which I'm doing more and more lately...I've developed more strength and it's easier to use the uni in smaller spaces now -- and it's a lot of fun.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Closing in on continuous behind-the-back throws

This month I'm trying to master continuous behind-the-back throws in a 3-ball routine. So far, the most I've done has been 4 catches. But I think I've got the process dialed in...I learned I have to throw the balls quite a bit higher than I expected to gain the time needed to free my hands for the next throw and catch.

I'm actually doing this mainly as preparation to do continuous behind-the-back throws with clubs. Oddly, on my first attempt at that, it didn't occur to me to work with balls first and it took a suggestion from someone at a Texas Juggling Society meeting to give me that little breakthrough. I mean, if I was telling someone else how to learn to do anything at all with clubs, I'd suggest that they learn the trick with balls first....but I didn't figure that out on my own, when it was me.

Of course, part of that is because I can already do individual behind-the-back throws in the middle of a club pattern, so I felt like I ought to be able to move forward from that. But continuous behind-the-back throws is a whole 'nother animal.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Jugglefest 2008 Montage Video

Here is a sort of montage-video someone made of Jugglefest 2008.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Jugglefest 2008: first thoughts

As usual, Jugglefest was really inspiring. I've got tons of ideas for tricks and routines now. Some highlights:

  • It's now becoming a sort of annual routine to take one of my kids on Saturday and then tak e a different one on Sunday. Neither really juggles yet, but they're starting to try some things out.
  • Nothing is as cool as watching some fantastic juggler from out of town, like the Belgian guy who performed Saturday night, Stijn, do his public show...and then getting to walk right up to him at the festival the next day and talk to him, get some pointers, and try out some tricks.
  • Someone had a 3' diameter walking ball. I used to use one of these way back in ... sheesh, 1989 or so... when I was working at a summer camp that had a circus program.
  • I tried a 4-man box-shaped club passing pattern. I wasn't very good at it but it was a lot of fun. There was a lot of rotation involved. I don't know why we don't see more of this on the public stage. Oh, wait, I do: because 4 people would have to practice it. Still, it was really neat.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jugglefest is this weekend!

I can't believe I forgot to post about this. The Texas Juggling Society's annual Jugglefest is this weekend. It gets bigger and better every year.

There's (at least) two ways to enjoy:
- Go visit the festival itself, on the UT campus at the Belmont
building ($8 admission for the whole three day spectacle)

- Attend the public show. Saturday, Feb. 16, 7:30pm at the Texas
School for the Deaf (free)
Details are on the web site.

Balance and Motion show coming up

I'm going to do a Balance and Motion show for my daughter's 2nd grade class. The 2nd grade curriculum includes a unit on Balance and Motion, which is what inspired this show in the first son's teacher asked me to do a piece about this a few years back, and then I took the show to some other schools.

All juggling shows use balance or motion in some fashion, so the props make a fun way to demonstrate some of the principles that the unit covers, like counterbalancing, forces, gravity, spin and roll, and an axis.

Learning to use a devil stick, for example, is all about balance. You allow the stick to fall to one side of the control stick, then tap it above the centerline to throw it to the other stick. You start a propellor trick by catching it below the centerline and following it as it rotates.

Blue & Gold Banquet

I'm juggling for the Pack 90 cub scouts this February 28, at their Blue & Gold Banquet.