This past Saturday the world-famous juggler, mime, and performance artist Michael Moschen did a benefit performance at a local high school for our local After School Arts Program (ASAP). Michael lives in the next town north of us (Cornwall, Connecticut) so I see him from time to time in the hardware store.
I’ve never had the nerve to ask him about juggling (something I do from time to time) but then, he’s not really a juggler in the traditional sense, or, he’s gone so far beyond juggling that juggling three balls (which he did magnificently in this performance) is not the place I want to make contact about.
What he’s done (and he received a MacArthur Fellowship Genius Award for it) is to take the control of objects to a place far beyond what most people could imagine. He’s combined skill and imagination in a way that makes the result go far beyond “mere” juggling all the way to art, in the best sense of the word.
Between his “pieces” he’d come on stage and talk with the audience about juggling, dance, practice, kinesthesia, and more. He had us do a few participation exercises and one of them caught my attention because I play drums, and also because I think it’s a great kinesthetic exercise. Michael was trying to give us an idea of what jugglers (and drum set drummers) experience when they do different things with each hand (and foot).
Here’s the exercise:
Point your left hand out in front of you. Take your pointer finger and slowly and carefully draw a square in the air, counting as you go:
1-down 2-right 3-up 4-left
Practice this for a bit until you get it. Now let’s change the count, simply repeating the square 3 times for a total of 12, counting all the way up to 12:
1-down 2-right 3-up 4-left 5-down 6-right 7-up 8-left 9-down 10-right 11-up 12-left
Great, so we just did some math: turned 4 into 12 by multiplying it by 3.
Now things get interesting. First, shake your hands out (and your brain) and check out Michael juggling inside a triangle. He had multiple balls going all over the place in the triangle, making fantastic rhythms at the same time he was tapping his feet in another count. Okay, back to work for us…
With your right hand, with the same slow movement draw a triangle like so:
1-down 2-right 3-up and left (the hypotenuse)
Practice the triangle for a bit with your right hand, then change the count, repeating the triangle 4 times for a total of 12:
1-down 2-right 3-hypotenuse 4-down 5-right 6-hypotenuse 7-down 8-right 9-hypotenuse 10-down 11-right 12-hypotenuse
More math: we turned 3 into 12 by multiplying it by 4.
I swear if you can do these two in isolation you’ve achieved something but of course, Michael went further and took us where he wanted to go. The idea is to combine these with the count being constant, like this:
1: left hand down, right hand down
2: left hand left, right hand right
3: left hand up, right hand hypotenuse
4: left hand right, right hand down
5: left hand down, right hand right
6: left hand left, right hand hypotenuse
(at this point because the entire thing repeats I’ll just copy and paste and change the count)
7: left hand down, right hand down
8: left hand left, right hand right
9: left hand up, right hand hypotenuse
10: left hand right, right hand down
11: left hand down, right hand right
12: left hand left, right hand hypotenuse
As an audience, we struggled with it and I’m going to work on it from time to time for fun. Michael, not really showing off, did it so fast and crisply (he’s a mime so of course) that it took my breath away.
Let me know if you try this and what you think, it’s hard at first but as you do it more it gets easier. Have fun.