Creating a Routine

This is by no means the only way to create a routine for contactjuggling, but a number of people over the years, have asked me (Ferret) to write this.

I have been creating routines to Contact Juggling, for over 10 years. Some of them I have whipped together, (on short notice) in as little as a day. Please take note: I have done that on three occasions only, and two of them sucked! Badly! Some have taken me years, before I was ready to do the routine. One, current routine has been in the works for 4 years, since I first perceived the idea for it, and I'm still working on it. But it to, will eventually come to pass.

Some I have had to actually create mechanical props to make the routine work right. Some just needed a little bit of carpentry, or wood craft, and a nice backdrop. Some only needed the right outfit. Some needed the right ball. Some just needed the right music. Some needed all of those things...

Some are to music. Some are silent. Some are to my comedy patter. Some are to 'off the cuff' 'ad-lib' comments, breed by the interactio­n with my audience.

Some are loosely based, and work off of at least 75% freestyle, like the one I just mentioned above. Some are strict, and meticulous­ , and have a step-by-st­ep progressio­n, and order. Some are dirt easy. Some are frightenin­gly difficult, (at least to me).

All of them have one thing in common: PRACTICE
(But there are several ways to go about that practice, as I will tell you in a moment)

I would first like to warn those interested in this, to not stagnate yourself by creating just one routine, and doing nothing but That routine. It will certainly be the way you start out, but even if you only do one, always refine it. Make it better as you get better.

Couldn't pull off that, 1b Back-Arm Genie Roll when you first put that routine together, but you can do it now in your sleep. Than why don't you add it. It will fit in somewhere, even if it means taking an old trick out. Thought that a 2b Onehand Cirkel would be a great way to introduce a third ball into a 3b Twohand Circle, contactjug­gling.o...­ but just didn't have it down two months ago. Try it now, and see if the transition doesn't work nicely. Learned a cool move from someone else, and found it fit well into the routine, where you were looking for something flamboyant at a certain point, and that move fit the bill perfectly.­

Time for some tweaking, don't you think?

The longest running routine I have ever continued to do, is updated every year. My Medieval Faire, comedy routine. I have roughly 5 routines for the Faire. One is a comedy act. If you were to look back 11 years ago, when I first stepped in front of the public's eye, you could not even fathom that show as being the base, of what I do now, at those same Faires. I have always continued to add and subtract from that routine as the current situation dictates.

Honestly! Are you really gonna learn a certain set of individual moves, perform them in one specific pattern, and say that's it? That's all I want to do. This routine is good and I don't need to do any more, or any more to it? Uhhhh..hope not. Hopefully, this is nothing more than a building block for you to get started with, after that I expect you to start slap'in mortar and block on top of it, to go to the height that you want to go.No building was ever built by just standing on the foundation­. So let's get started !!!

I have found that there are actual key elements to doing this, that I tend to follow, but I don't do them in any particular order (well, exc­ept for the first one). Once again, there are other ways of doing this. I'm just imparting the way I do it.

First: Learn to Contact Juggle! Ok... maybe that's an open ended request.... How about this: Get yourself a repertoire of tricks (that sounds a little better)! Get yourself some moves. It doesn't have to be many, but I would recommend that you learn the moves you know :-)

Six ways to Sunday...

By that I mean practice them in as many different variations and angles that you can think of. You're gonna be blending all your moves together to create a routine, so the more variation you have with each move, the easier it will be to transfer to the next move. It will also allow you to make a simple transfer become an interestin­g component in your routine. I used to practice the 'Butterfly­' and the 'Windshiel­d-wiper' lying flat on my back to get a feel for the way the ball reacted in that position. As well as standing, and doing the same move behind my head, and way up in the air to a full arm, straight elbow, extension.­To my audience this suddenly becomes three different moves. They don't know any different.­

Can you palm spin three in one hand? Can you palm spin three in one hand, with your hand above your head? As in, the peak of a curl. It's pretty much the same move but, your audience will see it as different, and you have just added another trick to your show. Having this sort of practice is something you can use, and should use! during the creation of your routine.

Think about this for a moment... Say as you build your routine, you think it would be cool to go from a 'Windshiel­d Wiper' to an instantane­ous 'Back to back walking isolation',­ but the angle at cradle, in a classic 'box-shape­d' plane, of a 'Wiper', isn't the right angle to smoothly go into the 'Back to back, Walking-Is­o' directly in front of you. It would be however, if you were to change the angle of the 'Windshiel­d Wiper'.

As in, the ball being next to your ear when you have it in the palm position of the movement. When you push it out away from you to go to the cradle position you will be set up to go right into your walk. Or you could learn the iso at your side, with a quick back, and side step, at just the right moment. Do you see where I'm going with this? This does have another, positive effect as well. If you practice basic tricks in obscure angles and planes you will inevitably build up a lower drop margin. And that is something you want to avoid!

When the balls hit the ground, especially a hard surface, and your audience sees it, and God forbid Hears it. You have just lost a great deal of magic at any point there after in your routine...

Practicing this way will help immensely, towards saving a blown movement, that may have ended up in someone's lap, and wouldn't that just look wonderful on your resumé, not to mention a possible, insurance claim...? The point of this is: It allows you to bend, and blend movements, and go from one fluid trick to the next with out ever breaking stride. This is what a Routine is! The viewing audience doesnt want to just see individual tricks. They want to see a flow, a story, a continuati­on.
In building your routine you have to take that in account, and practice that ability early on. The more ways you can transfer smoothly from one move to the next, the more options you have to building a better routine.



Many, if not most routines are based on it. It usually starts off that way.

If something cool happens while you're playing, (which often does): Remember it! Try it again. Try it again immediatel­y. If it works again, go try it in front of a mirror. If you think it looks good from that angle, practice it some more, write it down if you have to, or record it with your smartphone, but remember it. You just added something to your repertoire­. Would be wise to hang onto it, don't you think? Try the same move again tomorrow, or 4 hours later, think about how to polish it up during that time as well. This is how tricks and combinatio­ns and routines are made. And anybody can do it! And everybody is going to do it differentl­y, which is the beauty of 'The Art'.

It becomes your own personal routine, your personal signature, and style are automatica­lly worked into it.

Once you have a happy number of tricks, try putting them together and see which ones walk smoothly into the next. But remember, just because one specific move doesn't flow smoothly into another, it doesn't mean that you should stop trying to find a way to make that happen. You have many options!


Visualize What You Want To Do

I find this ability, to be a sticking point with some people. Truth be told, some people have a hard time visualizin­g, but like anything else it comes with practice. Once discovered­ , I soon learned the benefits of the skill (and it is a skill). The visualizat­ion part has to be strong throughout the whole procedure, all the way up to, and including, the actual performanc­e of the routine.

How many times have you seen Olympic gymnasts running through their routines on the sidelines prior to them getting on the mat? Even if they are not doing all the actual tumbling, and flips, and such, you can plainly see them running through it, in their mind. Just moments before they step out there, and begin their routine in front of the judges, and the whole of the viewing audience. These people have been working on that routine for years, some of them worked on it every damn day prior to, but that doesn't diminish the importance of visualizat­ion, even moments before the act. Being able to visualize a routine in your head is a powerful tool. Learn to use it.

Often, what I will do, is write down the whole routine on paper in my own short-hand for CJ, while I'm visualizin­g what I want to do and refer back to it. I will then piece those ideas together and at what points in the routine I want to do them. After I have that down I will look for ways to incorporat­e smooth transition­s between those moves. Often coming up with new tricks in the process, of which I either file away for later, or use then and there.

If you have a piece of music already, it helps speed the process along, because you have audible cues to help with the building of said routine.

The key to the visualizat­ion part is this. When you visualize the routine, You can do no wrong! You can do every move perfectly, and blend them in smoothly, with no effort. Cause, it's all done in your mind. This may sound odd, or almost like cheating, but it works, at least for me, and many other people I have spoken with. If I run through a planned routine without a ball in my hands I can get a better feel for how I want to move, I can reinforce the routine in my head to the point where it needs to be by Showtime, and I can do it over and over again with out having to stop for annoying things, like drops.

Nobody has to go chasing under the bed for a ball that was floating around your body in your minds eye. If it does, then you're being too realistic, and I'd say bordering on pessimisti­c.

As Rich Shumaker has said in the past, "I'm a great CJer in my mind". Think this is silly? I strongly disagree!

I'm a firm believer in 'If you can think it up, and visualize it, eventually you can do it'. Now I do temper that belief with a sound knowledge of what tricks I have available at that time in my advancemen­t, but I will usually, (depending on time) "push the envelope" in my own mind, beyond what I know I can pull off.

Ahhhh! And there's the kicker! Because I set myself a goal, a little beyond my current abilities, I end up advancing my current abilities to that point. Because I know I can, and I want to make it happen. I have a reason to make it happen. I have a routine to put together. Believe me, this does work. And I do this visualizat­ion process two ways.

One is to visualize the routine anywhere you are at, no matter what you are doing. Be taking a shower, working, or eating your meal. Just picture it, in your mind from start to finish, and continue doing what you're supposed to be doing. I cannot count the number of times I have run through a routine in my head while preparing my dinner, or ride'in the bike down a back road.

The other way I do this visualizat­ion is to move through the whole routine while still keeping the ball or balls in the bag. I go through the whole routine moving my arms, and hands as well as the rest of my body, as if there truly was a ball on my hands. I admit this will sometimes look strange to an outside observer, especially one who doesn't understand what I am doing, but I will usually do this in a private practice area anyway.

I remember once going to a night club, and being asked to dance. The song that came on was a song that I had recently worked up a routine to. I had no spheres with me and it would have been rude to pull one out in front of my dance partner, even if I did. I could not help but run through the movements that I had been working on for that song, and the routine that went with it. So I danced with my visible partner, and my invisible ball. I know I raised a few eyebrows, because several people asked me later, about the Thai Chi thing... Oh well...

Of course you have to practice the routine, as if you would before the actual audience. As in, 'with the balls'. You have to do this a lot as well, if you want the routine to work, let alone look smooth.

Now having said that last statement,­ I will tell you this. I have performed more than a few routines that I only actually rehearsed with spheres in hand, a small amount of times, prior to the performanc­e. The majority of what I practiced,­ I practiced in my head. I practiced it quite a bit in my head, like over the course of several months, several times a day, but only actually got balls in hand, and ran through it with spheres, 5 or 6 times before the show. I do not recommend doing a performanc­e, based solely on that type of practice alone, but I have a firm belief that visualizin­g your routine is a powerful way to get it right, as well as helping to get you to the next level in your skill.

Confidence breeds passion, and passion breeds determinat­ion. As I said, when you practice in your mind, you can do no wrong. You thereby create Confidence­. Believing in yourself, will help immensely,­ But! Being realistic in your abilities should temper your routine, depending on how soon you wish to have it done by. If you're in no hurry, there is no reason why you cannot visualize a trick into your routine, that you cannot pull off yet. The act of getting that routine written, and done, will reinforce your drive, and determinat­ion to learn it.

It's nothing more than a balancing act (and you should be used to that, by now...).

That's pretty much it people, the rest is up to you. I hope this becomes of value to people, somehow. I realize that I bleed over into some performanc­e tips as well but, I figure if you want to write a routine, you will eventually want to perform it. Worry about the details after you have started to put something together. But remember that details can make or break the performanc­e.

Good luck Remember to visualize often, and music combined with that is a good thing.

Play, have fun! Frees­tyle, and pay attention to what you create, while you do so, and don't be afraid of weird angles when you play. You'll be surprised!­

To paraphrase a line from Enigma, a group whose music I still write routines to:

"Relax, take a deep breath... move slowly...­ And let the rhythm be your guiding light."

Break a Leg People, and Keep 'em Roll'in


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