We are very particular jugglers. We do a lot of group stuff that we want to be very precise. We work like musicians or dancers with scores, so everything is counted: you do six of those throws at this height, then you do a seventh throw which is at twice the height and it goes to the person who is two steps to your left. We use mathematical systems to keep everyone in time.
The basis of all classical juggling is throwing, so the best thing is to warm up by just throwing one thing between one hand and the other. Do that for a little bit, and just notice if there are differences between the hands – if one hand is more powerful or less powerful. Does one hand drop more than the other? Just get used to it – I know it sounds silly.
Then you have a choice about whether the ball crosses to the other hand or stays in the same hand. You can alternate same-hand throws and crossing throws. Then go back to just the crossing throws, and the moment the ball stops going up, add a clap. The ball goes on a parabolic arc – a little semi-circle – and gravity wins, doesn’t it? You throw the ball up and gravity wins. So we add a little clap in that moment to acknowledge gravity’s victory, and that clap is when you throw the second ball.
So now you have two balls. Throw the first one, crossing it towards the other hand, and the moment it starts coming down, throw the second one. So it should go: “throw, throw, catch, catch”. That’s your motto. Do that for about 10 minutes, and then you are ready for three. At that point, after about five minutes of trying, you’ll have worked out how to do three.
Then it’s the old “practise, practise, practise” – there’s nothing like it. But intelligent practice is the important thing. I’m sure it’s the same in acting or dancing, but we come across people who practise six hours a day and don’t improve that much, and people who practise for two hours and improve more. A good methodology in one’s practice is really important.
Juggling – and the circus skills in general – are still underrepresented and I would say that for somebody with entrepreneurial skills, having something like juggling on top of their acting or their dancing is a great extra thing and makes it much easier to pick up little jobs. It’s best if one can do things on one’s own terms. If you put together a nice comedy walkabout thing – say, comedy waiters – you could send an email to every restaurant in London, and it would cost nothing. Instead of going to an agency, think up the business from scratch.
Circus is sometimes seen as less serious [than dance]. We’re doing a project with ballet dancers at the moment and I love the notion of juggling and ballet together because they are two ends the spectrum – of what’s considered high art and low art. At the end of the day they’re just cultural definitions. You can mess with those. I think the more different skills you have the better.
Smashed by Gandini Juggling will be at the Udderbelly Festival from 22 April.
Got a circus act you want to develop? Underbelly Productions and National Centre for Circus Arts are giving 20 IdeasTap members the chance to win £5,000 to create a new live show.
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