November 25, 2013: I Might Run off and Join the Circus…

Not really, but I am slowly becoming a circus freak, and I use the word freak jokingly. No one had the slightest resemblance to the Elephant Man or a bearded lady. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, I went to a juggling convention in Nürnberg this weekend. So from Friday at 17:00 until Sunday at 15:00, my day was filled with juggling or juggling like activities. And coffee, there was a good bit of coffee as well. For those of you who may not know this as well, there was much more than juggling at this convention. I would say something more broad like acrobatics, juggling, and object manipulation (which covers a good bit). So below, for those of you not familiar with what that includes, I posted in the first link, a wikipedia entry and in the second a video of someone really awesome doing said activity.

Some things at the convention:
Hooping (video)
Poi (video)
Diabolo (video)
Acrobatics
Aerial Silk
Contortion
Unicycle
Juggling (video)
Hat manipulation
(video)
tight rope walking
Devil Stick
(video)
Contact Juggling
(video)
Cigar Box Juggling (video)
Fire Staff
(video)

So with that I’m just going to jump right into what I did this weekend. Friday I woke up around 11 and decided to meet some friends at the mensa to eat lunch together. It was a pretty awesome lunch considering one of the options was fried feta cheese with a cabbage salad. It was probably the best lunch I’ve ever had at the mensa, to be honest. Then we went back to one of said friend’s dorm and had coffee and Belgian chocolate. In case you don’t know, you should be jealous. Belgian chocolate is probably a pretty close approximation to what heaven should be. Then at half three I met my friends Lucia and Donald at the train station to head to the juggling convention in Nürnberg.

And even though it took us a while to get there (we picked the train that stopped at every little station in between and then proceeded to take a somewhat long way to the convention), it was made more fun by the company of good people. Once we got there and got our stuff in our room, we went downstairs to the gymnasium and started juggling (which I will note here now, that this was hosted in a elementary/middle school). Well, for about the first 30 minutes actually, I just watched everyone in the gym sort of do their thing. It was pretty amazing how much talent was in such a small space. And it was also pretty cool how laid back everyone was. People would borrow things from each other and show each other new moves or techniques. Everyone seemed really happy to meet new friends and share their knowledge with others.

The gym

After dinner and more practicing there was a somewhat impromptu show where people at the convention got up on a stage and showed their stuff to the audience. I say somewhat impromptu only because there was no set program for the acts, but there was a good deal of structure and there was this really weird show in between acts. It essentially consisted of these two guys having audience members tell the different fairy tales in about two lines. This sounds awesome, but one of the guys, the handsome prince, was kind of creepy about it most of the time. It really didn’t help the way he was dressed (see photo below). At one point to stall for time for one of the last acts to get there he decided to dance, and needless to say, he wasn’t very good at it… But it was all in good fun I suppose. The acts were pretty good and they always received a beer (or a soda for the under-aged) for being brave enough to perform in front of people who are all pretty awesome at what they were trying to do.

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There was also a fire show, which mostly consisted of fire staff, poi, juggling, devil stick, fire breathing, fire whip (?), and this magic stick which seemingly floated in the air. And as most people know, everything looks cooler with fire, so it was pretty awesome.

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That was about the time I called it quits for the night. I was rather tired and sadly did not bring my hoops with me because I didn’t want to carry them on the train. So at that point I was tired of practicing my poor juggling skills and not really seeing anything come out of it. So I was off to bed, or rather, floor. We slept on the floor the entire weekend, and while I was lucky enough to have a mat and to be able to borrow a sleeping bag from a friend, it was still pretty difficult to sleep. Just about every time I would be close to drifting off, someone would open the door, causing a blazing streak of light to fall right on my face. There were also several snorers on the first night, which didn’t help. Maybe at about 4 or 5 in the morning, I finally fell asleep because I put on some podcasts to drown out the snoring.

To sum up the next day: breakfast, shower, juggling, coffee, juggling, lunch, juggling, coffee, juggling, dinner. So I guess to flesh a bit of this out, breakfast was very European, meaning it consisted of bread, cheese, meat, jam, Nutella, yogurt, and coffee. It was pretty good, I just usually wish there were eggs, bacon, and toast when I travel and eat breakfast somewhere. The shower was mortifying. We were in a school so there were shower rooms, but there were no curtains on the showers and people could just kind of walk through the changing room and see you in the shower. And being American, I don’t really handle nakedness very well (at least not that of strangers) so when the lady was just walking around naked and talking to people after I got out of the shower, I just looked down and got dressed about as fast as possible. A friend sent me a video of Michael McIntyre talking about this that sort of sums up how both of us felt in the shower rooms.

The juggling was fun. I learned how to do some object manipulation with clubs from a guy I met at the convention. It makes me feel somewhat legit. I also learned how to do some of what I call juggulus interruptus, in which someone is juggling with three clubs (at least in this case) and I pull out one of the clubs while they are juggling and then give it back while they continue to juggle. It sounds a lot tougher than it actually is. I also did some partner juggling with my friend Lucia with the balls of course (they are easier than clubs), which I actually have a video (below) of one of the patterns we tried out. Then for lunch we decided to go find a grocery store in Nürnberg. This meant that we walked around a good bit of the historic downtown and got to take some cool pictures. It was nice to just get outside and walk around for a bit.

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After dinner we made our way to the show. Yes, it just got more awesome. The show was pretty spectacular. I wish there was some sort of video that I could link to, but sadly I don’t have any. I will kind of try to explain what the show consisted of (mostly juggling). There were two people who juggled together, at first under a trench coat with their arms coming out of different parts of the coat changing the dynamic and pattern of the juggling. About halfway through the coat came off and they separated. Then most of this part consisted of her juggling in many different positions (e.g. laying down, leaning over, etc.) Then they did a sort of juggling dance later in the show, which was pretty awesome.

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Then there was the guy from Berlin, who started his first act by juggling balls which he bounced on the floor. His second act, which was much more impressive, was him using the diabolo. I thought I had seen some awesome diabolo the night before, but this was truly amazing. At one point he had four of them on the string at the same time! There was also a girl who “juggled” with one club. That doesn’t sound very impressive at first, which is why I put the quotes. It was impressive. Trust me. She tied her hands behind her back and then proceeded to move the club to different parts of her body, without much use from her hands. She also balanced it on several different parts of her body as well. After her there was a 14 year old guy who juggled an insane amount of rings (I don’t remember how many).

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Then there was a guy who juggled hats. It was pretty impressive. I think he ended up doing four or five at one time, popping them on and off his head and all around his body, sometimes throwing them up in the air and sometimes balancing them on a cane while the cane itself balanced on his shoulder. Then it was one of the clown’s turn to perform. Which I must say here, the clowns were probably my favorite part of the show. I was emotionally invested in them by the end of the evening (which will come up later). Anyway, for his actual performing act, he not only tap danced, but he juggle cigar boxes while tap dancing. And, it turns out underneath his big jacket, which only served to make him look scrawny, were two large buff arms. It was a bit surprising. And even though his act wasn’t until later, I will go ahead and describe the other clown’s act. This clown, in contrast to the first, was rather sulky in demeanor, but it was endearing. For his act he not only juggled clubs, but he juggled them with a balloon, which continuously tried to escape by floating up to the ceiling. Eventually he decided to pop the balloon, only to have it blow up again through the collar of his shirt and ultimately replace his head. He then did some object manipulation with his clubs, while not being able to see due to his newly acquired head. Towards the end of the act he picks up a gun (which was actually just a lighter he had used earlier) and puts it to his balloon head. At this point the entire audience is crying out for him to stop, someone even told him they loved him. At this point he walks off stage. We are all relieved and you can feel everyone in the audience relax. Until, that is, we heard the sound of a balloon popping off stage. It was pretty disheartening. But the clown showed up again in the show later, so I’m just going to assume it was a Fight Club kind of ending.

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The last act I am going to talk about was, to me, somewhat disappointing. Yes, it was pretty amazing, but her showmanship was a bit off, I think. She was essentially a contortionist. Her act started by her coming on stage with a stuffed chicken (no, not a cute stuffed animal chicken, more like a Chuck Testa stuffed chicken) and then impersonating it for a bit. After that, she put on a mask (no, Donald, you were right. It sadly wasn’t a blind fold) and cracked two eggs each in separate bowls. Then she poured the eggs from bowl to bowl from several different places on her body. It was pretty impressive in its own right, but it was just lacking the sort of entertainment value most of the other acts had. And that was essentially the show. There were little skits between the clowns and the host of the show interwoven between the real meat of the performance, which were pretty awesome in and of themselves.

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After the show there was, of course, more juggling before I finally got too tired and went to bed at about 2 or 3 in the morning. Saturday night I actually slept a lot better though and we didn’t wake up and go downstairs for breakfast until half past 11. Then I got a shower and by the time I was ready, the games had already started. The games in which I speak of are little mini-competitions based on the different types of acrobatics, juggling, and object manipulation. The winners of the competitions each received a little Advent calender with chocolate for their efforts. Some of the events I saw included diabolo throwing (where the participants through the diabolo into a bucket from across the gym), human pyramid (in which teams of four people stacked themselves based on instructions like, “one hand and two feet on the floor”), piggy back juggling (where one person sat on the other person’s shoulders and juggled), and the crowd favorite, gladiator (where participants juggled three clubs and then tried to knock the clubs from other contestants to the ground. The last person standing was the winner of that particular round). There was one guy in particular, who was pretty good at it. At one point he simultaneously eliminated two people. There was a pretty epic showdown between him and another rather skilled guy in several rounds, but he ended up ultimately winning.

After that, we went home. Luckily there was a guy from E-werk (where we juggle) who drove us home, so we didn’t have to lug our stuff 20 minutes through Nürnberg again. Then, because I hadn’t hooped all weekend but was surrounded by some pretty awesome hoopers and felt inspired, I went to the park and hooped for a bit. Later I also ended up going for a run to the train station, picked up my bike, and then rode it back home. I felt a bit like I was training for a triathlon, sans swimming. Then it was awesome awesome sleep in a real bed time. Oh yeah…

Today was both relaxing and awesome. I ended up meeting a friend in the park. He juggled, I hooped. I ended up hooping for about two hours. It was pretty cold, but at least for the most part, it was sunny. That is until Germany decided it should start snowing. The weather here is quite moody and tends to change pretty quickly. That was about the time we decided to go warm up in a cafe with some coffee and cake. Then I went to belly dancing class, and hey, I didn’t actually suck! Winning.

So I figure by now this blog is long enough. I won’t bother to write my intended plans for this week/weekend. Okay, maybe a little. Next weekend I’m going with my program to Heidelberg, which is supposed to be a really awesome and historic place! I actually had it as my second choice of cities to study in, after Munich of course, but I must say, I am really glad I ended up in Erlangen!

Also a special thanks to Donald, for some of the pictures.  Most I just sort of got from random places/people though, heh.

More videos/pictures from the convention if you are using this blog to procrastinate:
Video (in German)
Pictures

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