Monday, October 27, 2014

What is juggling

Juggling. We all do it, but what is it exactly?

A traditional definition might be: Always at least one object in the air. 
This is very descriptive for toss juggling. In a three ball cascade there is always at least one ball at flight. This definition suggests: more objects in the air also means 'better' juggling.

But we know that we call other actions juggling too. How about contact juggling, or diabolo?
Perhaps we should replace 'air' with 'out of full control'.
Always at least one object out of full control.
If you do a chest roll from one hand to the other, in between it might not be in the air but it is in a sense 'juggled'. A diabolo in the midst of a sun swing is still in the string, but in order to completely control it again we would first need to stop its current motion.
This definition suggests: The more that is out of control or the less control we have, the better the juggling

But how about putting an object on the floor. It is then out of our control, but not juggled, right? Or how about executing a throw or body roll very skillfully, we kind of are in control right? We might not be able to change its path midway, but we knew and planned that when we started the move, thus we still control it.

It has been suggested that perhaps juggling is about risk. If you manipulate an object in a 'risky' way, it becomes juggling. Object manipulation with an element of risk.
There has to be a chance the trick goes wrong. When I hold something in my hand, the risk that I drop it is very small, thus this is not really juggling. When I throw up a lot of balls and want to catch them, there is a big risk that I will not catch them all, therefor this is juggling.

This would describe a scale, where every object manipulation action is a form of juggling, though there are low risk ones (such as drinking water from a cup) and high risk ones (such as toss juggling 11 balls while spinning two rings on one leg and bouncing a ball on your forehead at the same times). Clearly the riskier ones are more like juggling.

But is the risk actually real? If a juggler performs something that is beyond its skill level, such as trying to juggle 11 balls when one can hardly keep 5 in the air, this does not look like juggling even though there is a huge risk that it will go wrong. Jugglers make things easy that were originally risky.

Maybe the true definition of juggling is something along the lines of: Succeeding in executing an originally risky object manipulation.
Managing something that used to be hard.

I am sure this definition is far from perfect. What does it include and what does it exclude? Comments are very welcome.

1 comment:

  1. If you do two balls in an asynchronous non-crossing pattern, so that you always throw the ball from one hand before catching the other ball in the other hand, there is always at least one object in the air, but I wouldn't consider that juggling. At any point in a three ball cascade, there is a ball that you need to get out of your hand before that hand can catch another ball that is currently in the air. The two ball pattern doesn't have that kind of situation.