Patri Friedman, In Vague Association With Proudly
Patri's Contact Juggling Page
I found this great little animated gif of someone contact
juggling at the U of Ga.
Welcome to Patri's Contact Juggling webpage.
What the Heck is Contact Juggling?
Contact Juggling [CJ] is one of the most hypnotic and
fascinating forms of the art of juggling. Unlike normal
juggling, in which objects are thrown, spun, or balanced, in
contact juggling, as its name implies, objects remain in
contact with the body. The standard object used is a
transparent ball, which is usually plastic,but has the look of
a magical crystal ball. This ball is rolled in patterns over
the hands and arms (and sometimes chest, feet, and head). There
are endless variations, and there is no throwing or catching,
so the effect is extremely graceful. It tends to have
different effects on different watchers - some people are
indifferent, while others simply cannot tear their eyes
away. The clear balls pick up light from the surroundings, so
if there are brightly colored lights nearby, the balls will
twinkle and flash as they move.
The introduction to James Ernest's book
"The illusion created is one of a free-floating,
weightless ball, subject to unusual laws of motion. A good
contact juggler can make his own movements seem almost
unrelated to the movements of the ball; the attention of the
audience is always fixed on the ball. Contact juggling is,
above all, graceful and absorbing."
While manipulating these clear balls is the most common form
of contact juggling, it is not the only one. Any manipulation
that keeps an object in contact with the body is contact
juggling. This includes things like Harlem
Globetrotter style basketball rolls and the habitual
pen-spinning of bored students.
CJ with clear balls has been around for at least ten years,
but my observations suggest that it only begun moving from
incredibly obscure to moderately obscure in the late 90's. At
my college, for example, no
one else had heard of CJ when I got there in 1994, but by 1997
several arriving students were practitioners of the art.
Where might I have seen Contact Juggling?
- The most common place to have seen CJ is in Labyrinth
[IMDB], a 1986
Jim Henson movie in which David Bowie plays the
evil-but-handsome Goblin King, who steals away the heroine's
little brother because she was foolish enough to ask him
to. During one of the musical numbers, David Bowie performs, or
rather, appears to perform, some feats of contact juggling. He
rolls small crystal balls on his gloved hands in a hypnotic
pattern. Actually, those weren't his hands, because standing
behind David Bowie was Michael Moschen [MM]. The two CJ scenes
are at about 15 and 70 minutes into the movie.
- Some people have also seen MM's PBS special, "In
Motion with Michael Moschen". In it, he performs some
awesome stuff, including that wicked juggling-with-a-beat trick
with the big black triangle. One of the segments is a
phenomenal contact juggling performance, in which he begins
with four balls in each hand, and performs a number of
patterns. After each trick, he releases a ball to roll off into
the distance, and continues performing with a reduced number,
until he has released the last ball and is finished. It is only
one part of the show, but it is amazing and I highly recommend
this video to fans of CJ. You can buy it from amazon by
clicking the title above, or get it from one of the juggling
catalogues listed in the web resources section.
- Cirque du Soleil's Dralion also includes some contact juggling work.
- The film White
Men Can't Jump [IMDB]
contains some brief scenes of contact juggling using a basketball.
This is not the same as the standard crystal-ball-on-hands contact
juggling, but remember that any pattern where objects are rolled
along the body is a kind of contact juggling.
- Contact Jugglers can occasionally be found performing at
fringe culture events such as Renaissance
conventions, and SCA events.
I don't get it, show me some pictures!
Who is this Michael Moschen guy?
MM is a genius of physical coordination and choreography.
Besides his many other talents, he is an amazing contact juggler.
To learn more about him, check out this bio,
Science Monitor bio, this Boston
Pops Bio, or this
little subpage of a Labyrinth fan page devoted to him. None
of them are very comprehensive, but you should be able to glean
a bit of information about his life and times. He is the performer
in the video mentioned above, and has appeared on Letterman and
That sounds pretty neat, I wanna learn!
Great! Contact Juggling is an enormous amount of fun. If you
love watching other people do it, you will love doing it yourself.
James Ernest writes, in his book:
"It is the mesmerizing quality of contact juggling
that truly seperates it from other forms. To take a single ball
and cause your audience to sit quietly amazed; to do something
so simple and obvious and still hear, "How is that possible?";
this is the beauty of contact juggling. Juggling chain saws won't
make them sit silently, and they won't ask you how you do it.
Just why. And, unlike producing a tiger from a fish tank, you
can actually tell them how you do it, and they will still want
to see it again."
But be warned - CJ is (in my experience) a difficult and
frustrating form of juggling, with a high initial learning
curve. It is not like three-ball juggling, which anyone can
pick up after a little practice. It may be weeks or months
before your contact juggling looks smooth and graceful, and the
heavy balls can be wearing on the body - especially when you
drop them on your toes. Ouch. But don't be too
discouraged. Once you pick up the basics, you will be able to
quickly learn new tricks and to "jam", creating new
moves on the fly. And once you are good at CJ, it is an
enormous amount of fun, and you will find yourself
"practicing" for the sheer fluid joy of the
- The Ball: Obviously you need at least one ball to
contact juggle (although I find that doing "invisible
ball" CJ by moving my hands in the patterns can be lots
of fun while dancing at raves and such). Most balls are
between 2.5 and 3.5 inches in diameter. Three inches is the
standard diameter, and I find that works reasonably well for
one ball tricks even with my small hands, although for three
ball tricks I would suggest getting two and a half inch balls
if your hands are small.
One ball will be plenty in the beginning, although it
takes three or four to do some of the more advanced
patterns. Also you will probably find that your first ball
gets pretty dinged up, and you may want to save that as a
practice ball and get a shinier one for performance (or just
showing off). Your ball should be made of plastic, such as
silicone, lexan, or acrylic. It is very important that the
balls be transparent, because then you cannot tell when they
are spinning. It is this invariance to rotation that gives CJ
its magical floating quality. The ball is actually rolling
along your fingers, but it looks like it is just floating
because you cannot see it turn.
The balls can be dropped on carpet, grass, and other soft-ish
surfaces without damage. If they are dropped on harder surfaces,
like concrete or metal, small scrapes and dings will appear.
Small marks can be polished off with a special cloth. Unless
you do unspeakably terrible things to your ball, it will not
You can get a ball from one of the juggling stores listed
in the next section. They cost around USD $15-$30. Or just get clear, colored, or ultraviolet acrylic balls from Amazon.
If you cannot afford to get a ball, or you need to get
started right away, try an old lacrosse ball, as they are
about the right size and weight. Unfortunately, because the
transparent nature of the ball is so critical to the way CJ
looks, doing tricks with a lacrosse ball (or an orange in the
cafateria) will not look anywhere near as good. Still, it
works alright for practicing. Pool balls are too small, but
better than nothing. Actual crystal balls are too heavy, too
fragile, and don't grip well enough, but can be played with
for brief periods over padding.
The author of another CJ site has a
page about CJ balls.
- The Book: You may be able to teach
yourself from online videos, or get someone you know to show
you moves, but if those aren't enough I suggest The
Book. There is only one book written on CJ, "Contact
Juggling", by James Ernest, ISBN: 0963405403. You
it online at amazon.com, or order it directly
from the author (and yes, this is the CheapAss Games James
Ernest, if that means something to you). Some juggling
catalogues also carry it. It is an excellent introduction to
CJ. Once you master a reasonable amount of the material in
the book, you will be able to create new tricks and routines
is a review. There is a small amount of controversy about
the book, the rec.juggling FAQ
"The book is quite controversial among
traditionalists, who maintain that only Mr. Moschen has the
right to perform or write about Dynamic
Manipulation. Mr. Moschen himself seems to have been the
first person to make this claim.
Some individuals also
claim that the book takes one of Moschen's routines and
describes it movement for movement without giving proper
credit. Others claim that this is not true. It is interesting
to note that those who make the first claim are almost never
practitioners of contact juggling, and those who make the
second claim invariably are.
Mr. Moschen created quite a
stir in 1992 when he objected to the publication of a review
of this book in Juggler's World after the IJA had invited
Moschen to be the honored guest at the '92 festival in
Montreal. Moschen at first refused to attend the
festival. After some reconsideration, he did attend and gave
a workshop on creativity."
- Update: There is at least one other book, Multiball Contact.
- Videos: There are a few videos on learning how to contact
Juggling: Part One, described as: "Over 20 great tricks plus expert moves and looped examples. The most detailed, explicit, and easy-to-follow introduction to this new and extremely popular art form."
- Sphereplay: Art of the Sphere, a 30min video described as: "
Learn the art of contact juggling with Sphereplay. This well put together video starts off with a very impressive display talent, with an 8 minute display of the art. The lessons begin with a 4 minute, 40 move teaching routine designed to progress in difficulty."
- The Art of Contact Juggling, by David Pennington
can be ordered from Serious Juggling.
While I have not seen this, I have been told that it is
useful, although the instructor says some misleading things
(something about CJ balls weighing two pounds, which wouldn't
work too well)
- There are a few free videos available online, like on Ray Bowers site, and the Ministry of Manipulation. Please email me if you know of others.
Once you have The Ball and The Book, and perhaps A Video,
all it takes is practice and dedication.
What other web resources are there, besides this slick, professional
- Ball-based CJ
is currently the best site. They have a dozen videos, several
howto's, and a message forum.
- Ministry of Manipulation has a great site with lots of videos, info on their Multiball CJ book, etc.
Contact Juggling Club: Has a message forum where you can
discuss CJ with other jugglers, and some CJ photos online.
- Educated Hands:
Chinese Baoding Ball instruction. This website is about chinese
exercise balls, which are rotated just like in CJ, although they
are smaller so more are used.
CJ Tricks page. This page has a nice pick of "The Cage",
although not much else.
Page. Has a collection of posts on how to do arm rolls from
the Yahoo! Club, and an intro on how to do the basic CJ move,
Forget's CJ page has some notes on a notation system for
is Rich Shumaker's site. It has a tutorial video and a small
- Henrik Nilsson's
CJ page this is a small page on CJ. (Note: The URL has changed).
Contact Juggling Page. This is an old, rarely-updated page.
It has some pictures of CJ, a couple of video clips, and the
beginning of an online tutorial. The tutorial is currently only
a draft, with the first section (on holding the ball) written,
and the rest an outline.
- CJ with other objects
Jugglin this page contains some instructions on how to manipulate
small objects, such as coins, cards, and pencils. Many of these
tricks are a form of contact juggling, since a small object is
being rolled on ones hands.
Spinning is an instructional page, with videos, on pen spinning.
Flipping is another page on the same subject. It contains
a tutorial with pictures.
Flipping is another instructional page, with video.
- Some Online catalogues:
Now that videos are easy to make and host on the web, this page finally gets to show contact juggling in action!
- Miss Frix is a smooth professional juggler from Luxemborg, here is her home page.
- Miss Frix
Very good, very smooth isolations, and some dynamic work, from 'NNF show in Japan', with fire in the background as a light source. Vid quality is not the best and its sometimes zoomed out too far, but the juggler has very good control. Some multi-ball work too.
- Excerpts of Miss Mystique, Elf, and Manual ProjeXion Shows - Again, very good work, from 1 to 8 balls, I recommend downloading it and playing it back full screen. There's a short 3 ball bit that I really like.
- Bankgok Contact - CJ from a ?Bangkog? TV show. Lots of isolations, very smooth, some hoop work as well as bal
What events are there of interest to Contact Jugglers?
Since I don't really go to jugglefests or read juggling magazines
or any of that, I don't have good access to this information.
What's up with that funky picture at the top?
Because they are spherical and transparent, CJ balls have
interesting optical characteristics, . If you hold them in front
of things, they magnify and distort the image. Contact juggling
in front of interesting surfaces produces interesting results.
I discovered this with the aid of a psychedelic wall poster that
glows in black light. Moving the ball in front of the poster
produces cool visual effects, such as in the above photo. CJ
balls look especially good where there are neat sources of light
around, such as christmas lights, party lighting, and bonfires.
What are the future plans for this site?
This page just touches the surface of what a good CJ site
could be. Fortunately, since I don't have time to push those
boundaries, some other, more enthusiastic people are doing it.
Contact Juggling's internet presence has grown rapidly since I discovered there were no good sites many years ago. Good job everyone!
Obligatory Narcisssism: Who is Patri, and how did he get into
Patri is an SF Bay Area dilettante. When he was a teenager,
he saw James Ernest (author of the book) perform, and was mesmerized.
He bought the book and tried practicing with a lacrosse ball.
Despite his best efforts, it never looked any good. He gave up
until his senior year of college, when he met someone with an
acrylic ball and discovered that the problem wasn't him, it was
his balls. He began contact juggling compulsively, and it has
been a beloved hobby and means of relaxation every since. You
can learn lots more about him at his homepage.
Besides myself, the following people or pages have contributed
information to this page:
gritty fine print at the bottom stuff: This page is Copyright
by Patri Friedman, so don't violate my intellectual property rights
until the Millennium comes and renders such things unimportant.
Wait, the world didn't end. Oh well. Feel free to link to this
Last Modified: 10/2004
Patri Friedman / email@example.com