by: Jay Gilligan
Creating this performance I first wanted to adapt pieces of my new show, TONIGHT YOU ARE IN PITTSBURGH (an ensemble with one juggler and several musicians), to fit a solo setting with no live music. I quickly realized that one of the strong points of the material in the show was its ability to create a cohesive whole, a sense of one longer piece instead of small little parts that start and stop.
This ability of structure was achieved in part by the live soundtrack. Breaking the show into smaller parts and taking out the play and improvisation live musicians allow made the material weak and boring to me. United together the material was stronger, flowed better, and made more sense to me. I had to find a piece of recorded music that reflected this longer form.
Since I usually perform to popular music I was very limited in my choices- the standard pop song format is around 3 mintues long! After much research I found a recording by the band ZWAN that met all of my needs. The track is recorded from a live concert so it has a very fresh feeling with improvisations and spontenaity. The song is also basically one long transition from one motif to another; it rarely settles into any one theme for very long and yet keeps flowing to the next idea. There are lots of different moods and variations to the shifting sounds. These qualities fit perfectly with what I wanted to try and do with my juggling technique for the piece. The aestetics of the music may not be to everyone's tastes and likings but its hard to argue that the structure and the length do not fit the overall concept!
The juggling techniques, choreographies, and arrangments were born out of two different ideas in solo juggling. The first is one of logistics. As a solo performer it is hard to create any sort of continuous motion on stage while changing props. Performers have to literally stop what they are doing, put down the props they are using, and then pick up the new props to continue on. There are many variations on this process but the idea remains the same. Older acts (from vaudville and varieties) and more traditional circus acts try to solve this problem with the "lovely assistant" idea of having a "beautiful" girl throw the next set of props to the main performer, reducing the time in between tricks (and of course at the same time allowing the audience to see piece by piece the next objects to be juggled). Of course I still have to follow the very basic physical structure of "pause and pick-up", but I have tried to at least blur the edges a bit for these transitions.
The second idea comes in part from site swap. Site swaps such as 75751 esentially make the hands do very different jobs in the same short amount of time. I took the idea of throwing balls to separate heights and started to think how I could take this to the extreme. The base concept is to make the hands do very different jobs. I decided that mixing the standard juggling props in the same pattern would produce the same effect, at least from the juggler's perspective. The natural throwing and catching position of rings is to invert the hand with the palm down, as opposed to balls and clubs where the objects land in the hand palm up. This contrast alone was fun to explore and feel inside the patterns. The mixing of props was also a great way to try and create the feeling of constant transition, or one whole flowing piece. Instead of going straight from a ring juggling section to a club juggling section, I tried to make a section between that combined both ring and club juggling at the same time; therefore blending the areas where one section would end and another would begin.
Of course all of the ideas and concepts I have talked about here are very general and exceptions to every rule can always be found (except that one). Definitions and interpretations are also open to personal preferences. I don't know if I have accomplished all of my goals for this one piece. It certainly is not my final statement on any of the above topics, but rather a first step down a long path. I look forward to mixing props more in the future and to continue to explore the many different adventures in the juggling arts! Thanks for your attention and I hope you enjoy the show!
6:41 p.m. November 15, 2003
Arcadia, Ohio U.S.A.