Last week I attended the International Juggling Association Festival, here in Portland, Oregon. It was held at the Oregon Convention Center which is just a short drive from our home. After the first day of the Festival I decided to sign up for the Jerome Thomas Workshop which was held on three separate mornings. It was a great experience which really changed my view of juggling as an art and practice.
Jerome Thomas is famous in Europe for his unique performances that incorporate juggling, movement and theater, music and circus arts. Jerome has a reputation for being somewhat aloof, but I found him to be very approachable and a great instructor.
The first day of class was focused on three ball technique. Jerome said at the outset that we would not be doing new patterns – just a simple three ball cascade. We did many variations on position, height, tempo and movement with this three ball cascade and it proved very challenging. He has a system for juggling that he calls the “Cubic System”. I actually think that it is the “Cubit System” because when he described it he mentioned that all the juggling should happen in a box that is as high as your elbow to your fingertips (also known as a Cubit). This was one of the joys (and for some, frustrations) of the workshop – Jerome’s English is reasonably good but his accent is quite strong which made some of the more esoteric concepts in his system more difficult to grasp. Todd Strong was there to translate into English when necessary.
Jerome is extremely charismatic – I found myself really enthralled with his approach to juggling and want to try to emulate it as much as I can. Charisma is an interesting quality – I have found it in others over the years (such as Dave Duffield at PeopleSoft, Marcus Ryu at Guidewire, Rob Bruce at Nike, Gayle Sheppard at Saffron, and my friend Chip Wendt just to name a few) and I am always amazed at the effect it has on me. These charismatic people have the ability to make me believe that I should really pay attention to what they have to say and incorporate it into my way of living. It is, of course, a useful but somewhat dangerous quality.
The reason why I mention this with regards to Jerome is that it is the first time that I really recognized the effect that charisma has on me. I have been told that I can have this charismatic effect on people from time to time as well, but it is the first time I really understood its power. After all, why would I get so excited about a new way to juggle? I mean, it’s not like it is Buddishm or a solution for global warming – its just juggling. But Jerome’s charisma really made me feel it is important for me to learn more about his unusual techniques and get to know Jerome better as well.
I have managed to learn a few tricks from the workshop and I will continue to practice using the “Cubit System” over the next year or two. I found several aspects of the ball juggling to be really challenging – one of them was the controlling high throws of the juggling balls. I have never been particularly accurate with high throws and Jerome’s techniques require very precise and fast high throws. The good news here is that he has a lot of practice techniques that will increase speed and accuracy with my throws.