Circus Artists Share Juggling Techniques With Students

As a Chinese yo-yo flew from its strings, into the air and above the tall windows of Paresky Commons, cheers erupted from a watching crowd. The yo-yo landed firmly back onto its thin, white string before Jeremy Warren, a member of A Different Spin, continued to spin the yo-yo quickly in his hands.

Last Saturday afternoon in the Flagstaff Courtyard, A Different Spin, a circus and fire arts entertainment group, held a juggling workshop.

A Different Spin first started performing professionally in 2006 after members Tim Ellis, Ricky Hawkins, Michael “Mooch” Mucciolo and Warren met while studying at Vassar College. The group also performs large-scale fire shows and circus shows, in which they choreograph a routine of juggling, sword work, fire staff (a form of juggling in which performers manipulate flaming poles) and Poi (a New Zealand style of performance art that involves tethered weights attached to a rope being swung in geometric patterns, to deliberately chosen music).

“I enjoy [circus arts] in general. It’s a movement art. It’s nice and it’s meditative,” said Warren. “The experience of spinning fire in itself is really cool: the sound and the feeling of the heat. There’s something primal about it that I think we all enjoy, like sitting by the bonfire and spinning flaming things around.”

Now, as skilled fire jugglers and circus performers, the Boston-based group performs around the country. The group began leading workshops after they discovered how much they enjoyed sharing their art form.

“[Juggling is] delightful and fun. Anyone can do it. It took me three months to learn how to juggle three balls. If I can do that, I feel that anyone can learn how to juggle,” said Mucciolo. “Sharing performance arts, whether it is our fire show or just juggling with these audiences, is delightful, because it expands their ideas of what’s possible.”

The group of participants included both beginners and adept performers and ranged from Andover students to faculty and their children.

Karen Xia ’16, a participant in the workshop, said, “I have some experience with this sort of activity. I’ve spun Poi for about six months, but I don’t know that much. My experience didn’t help much, since [spinning] plates don’t really do that much with Poi. They’re completely different skill sets, because [plate spinning] is twisting a rod a lot, and [Poi] actually has balls on the ends of strings, and you move the strings around. I like Poi better, because you can do more things with Poi. Plate spinning is just one thing that you can do, which is spinning the plate. I thought it was cool to try to learn, though.”

The group went on to perform their choreographed fire show, which consisted of spinning, torch-juggling, acrobatics and a fire sword fight.