Tag Archives: Twin Cities Unicycle Club

Juggling then — and now — at MONDO 2017

A juggler’s skill hath been long years alearning.

The cryptic observation comes from Martin Farquhar Tupper, an English writer, poet and author of Proverbial Philosophy. This is a man who knew whereof he wrote – and he wrote a lot. This post about juggling and jugglers is prompted not by the quote but by the fact that next weekend, February 11-12, is MONDO!

Farquhar’s observation might well describe the truth about jugglers throughout four centuries of juggling history. Mondo guests, and jugglers (when they take time to rest their throwing arms) would understand the skill in greater depth by learning more of the noble history of what is, in fact, an art.

Juggling is a conversation with the stick, the body, the brain Michael Moschen

There seems to be general agreement that juggling began in Egypt – or maybe it was in the Aztec Empire. Researchers have found evidence in a series of images found in an ancient tomb in Egypt dated nearly two centuries BC.   Still, after the fall of the Roman Empire, jugglers lost their appeal; they were occasionally persecuted, considered “dirty scoundrels” or even witches!

The renaissance of juggling came in medieval times when the medieval equivalent of buskers added jugglers to entertain the royalty. In fact the term “juggle” comes from the Middle English word “jogelen”, meaning to entertain or perform – or maybe it was from the French word ‘jogler’ which means to joke or jest. History is ambivalent on the origin.

Whatever the origin of the term, one recognized authority on juggling writes:

With the end of the Middle Ages juggling slowly began regaining its respectability. Pierre Gringoire (1475-1538) was known as the ‘King of Jugglers…. In 1528 the emperor of Hindustan described in his diary a group of jugglers working with wooden rings and in the same year Christoph Weiditz came across jugglers amongst the Indians of Mexico. He made some pen and ink drawings, one of which shows an antipodist ( foot juggler). Antipodism was often found in Aztec art and various forms of juggling were practiced amongst many Indians throughout the Americas. It seems that some Indian cultures used it as part of their religious ceremonies, the actual juggling being performed only by the shaman.

Back in Europe, the Town Council of Nuremburg engaged a full time “Ball-Master” in the 1680, who not only demonstrated his own abilities but also taught the town youths to juggle and to walk the tightrope. Indeed, juggling and rope-walking were often performed together at that time as they are in many circuses today.

In time jugglers began appearing in circuses in Europe and the U.S. This is the era in which juggling began to look more like today’s art.   Though the stories of the time are few, some remain. For example, there were the brothers Mooty and Medua Samme, two East Indians who worked with devil-sticks and performed oriental ball manipulation, which ushered in the trendiness of “Far East” performers – and the inevitable confusion between Asian and American Indians.   Among the Asian performers was the juggler Awata Katsnoshin who performed traditional Japanese ball and stick plays, the precursor of modern ball juggling.

By mid-20th Century movies and TV had absorbed the attention and support of entertainment-seekers. Jugglers moved from main stage to performing on street corners. That is until juggling blossomed again as a healthy, affordable art form now flourishing in gyms, parks, schoolyards, college campuses and senior centers – where jugglers of every age and skill-level share their talent, their time and the tricks of the trade.


And it all comes together at MONDO!!!

Each juggler should be trained in the ignorance of the laws of physics ~ Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

MONDO 2017 is set for February 10-12 at Concordia University Gangelhoff Center in St. Paul.   ’The MONDO Spectacular, Saturday evening at Central High School, features unicycling, juggling and comedy, with special guests Nina Herzog, Matt Hall and Jay Gilligan.   MONDO is presented by MONDO Juggling and Unicycle Arts, a non-profit whose purpose is “to support the understanding and performance of juggling, unicycling, and related arts.” Supporters include Minnesota Neverthriving and the Twin Cities Unicycle Club.

Learn more about MONDO 2017 here: http://mondofest.org