Closing the Gala
Back when Totem was in Japan, I dreamed up a trick. Then, for the next three years, I worked on it. It worked sometimes, but would fail as often as succeed.
It’s a version of the traditional (if we can call it that – it only dates back to the 60s) balloon popping mouthstick trick. The twist? Before you pop the balloon, you get it to change colors. While it’s still balanced on the sharp of a knife, with an object balanced on top of it.
The issue with new tricks – especially ones that are quite literally brand new and original – is that there’s a lot of faith involved. You just have to believe that it’s possible, identify issues as they come up, and find ways to overcome them. When you’re trying to pop one balloon that’s covering another balloon, while the balloon itself is at once being balanced and also balancing something else – you’ve got a number of variables to overcome, information to parse, and a whole lot of hope to try not to lose.
About two weeks before the EJC, I finally figured out the last piece in the puzzle – an issue I was experiencing that dealt with friction between the balloons and how they rested on the knife’s edge. I trained it slightly differently that afternoon and made the decision – I’m going to do this in the gala show.
Putting a new trick on stage is a mental game. Yes, you need to have the technique prepared and have the mechanics of the stunt in your body – but when you’re putting something on stage that you’ve never presented before, it’s easy to get nerves. Especially when it’s the last trick of the last act at the largest juggling festival in the world in front of 4,000 of your closest friends and colleagues.
Luckily, my friend Kathrin Wagner agreed to help me on stage during the show. Her help – and the encouraging smile as she handed me the balloon at the end of the number – helped ground me and keep me focus. And you know what? The trick worked both times and was the talk of the night amongst fellow variety performers.
Will I teach anyone how to do this trick? Maybe someday. But for now, it’s my signature – my little contribution to the field of balloons and mouthsticks – and I’m going to enjoy keeping it that way for a while.