Austin Hosts 21st Annual Jugglefest
By Emma Banks, Kirby Camerino, Joanie Ferguson and Kaine Korzekwa
Juggling is a craft that has for centuries walked the thin line between art and sport. It combines both technique and artistry, skill and aesthetic. It is here in this precarious limbo that most jugglers live, and for many, their home base has become Austin’s own annual Jugglefest, hosted by the Texas Juggling Society.
Jugglefest celebrated its 21st year on the weekend of February 21-23, bringing in jugglers of all ages from all the over the world. Jugglefest serves to provide an environment for learning, practice and collaboration between artists. It is here that both beginners and experts alike are able to further perfect their craft and build connections with jugglers from all different livelihoods.
“It’s amazing,” audience member Mary Maguire said. “This room is just full of so many different ways to play and interact with things that you wouldn’t even normally consider if you hadn’t seen this sort of event.”
The Festival was held at the Texas School for the Deaf on South Congress Avenue. Friday night boasted the Renegade Show, where just about anyone could perform on an open stage, while Saturday night’s Public Show showcased the best performers of Austin and beyond. Games and lessons were scheduled during each of the three days.
“It’s a room full of jugglers, passing, sharing things with one another, networking and interacting both socially and physically, “ said Jim Maxwell, the University of Texas advisor for the Texas Juggling Society. “There will have scheduled workshops, a couple of demonstrations and of course the big stage show which are unique just to the festival.”
Skill levels ranged drastically from the most beginning stages of the craft to those who juggle at the professional level. Here, the focus is not so much expertise and finesse as it is fostering a love for both the art and the sport of juggling.
“When a person witness magic or juggling, they are in a moment of awe and that very moment is very spectacular,” said Arsene Dupin, professional performer and instructor. “It is not a moment you can see, it is not a moment you can grab, but that’s what the real focus of a juggler is– to give their heart to the heart of the person or witnesses, because laughter is one of the best medicines.”
Gifs by Kirby Camerino
Juggling may not be the most revered or respected art, but many are hopeful that festivals like this one will help to change that. Mary Maguire said her appreciation has grown immensely after watching jugglers practice and perform.
“The main thing that you take away is that there are always more things that you can learn and it’s all not necessarily how well you can do a skill,” Maguire said. “A lot of it is about, what I see in a lot of this is new ways to even consider an object.”
In the meantime, Erin Stephens, a workshop instructor, is more than happy to be getting paid to do what she loves, and she hopes to be one of the many that takes juggling out of its stereotype.
“What I love about being a performer, is a lot of people have a stereotype of what juggling is and they see it as clowny or danger, with knives and things,” Stephens said. “But what we try to really do is break that stereotype. Once people take our workshop they see the realm of possibilities for juggling.”
Print piece by Emma Banks and Kirby Camerino