I’ve been thinking more about these issues, and I like more and more the idea that the “foundational aspect of juggling” includes:
- The release of direct control over an object by the manipulator (hand or other) into the air or other medium.
- Gravity as the primary force to either bring the object back under control of the manipulator AND/OR the primary cause for failure to return the object.
- The same object is repeatedly released and caught in a natural way, or at minimum forces another object to be released in turn.
I think these three, in conjunction, and maybe with slightly different wording, sums up what most people already think about when they say if something is juggling or not.
Personally, as I’ve stated quite a number of times, I have a big problem with any definition that makes three balls juggling, or simple toss juggling, the main focus without also giving similar weight to manipulating an object with a stick, or sticks, or other things made of wood. The three aspects listed above equally describe the three ball cascade AND cigar box juggling.
The first aspect describes the “letting go” part of juggling, which I think is super important. If something remains attached to the manipulator, there is a dramatic tension that is missing which is fundamental to what people think of as juggling. The “other medium” means not just throwing upwards, but also rolling balls across surfaces such as body parts. As long as the rolling motion is dynamic, only in contact at one point, the possibility of it not being caught again still exists, and the dramatic tension remains.
There are types of object manipulation or circus skills that don’t require letting go, like poi swinging or ribbon twirling, which have, at various times, not been included in what is generally considered juggling. I think this lack of release of control is what contributes to that exclusion.
The second aspect separates out other skills from juggling. Gravity must be the reason the trick works or the reason the trick fails. Of course there are ways to imagine juggling without gravity being a factor, but these are most likely to be considered juggling analogues, not juggling itself. I’m thinking about doing activities in “juggling patterns” like moving objects around in the cascade or shower or a siteswap, or letting go of small children and grabbing them again. Something is just a metaphor for juggling when gravity is no longer a deciding factor. If there is no possibility of a drop, is it really juggling?
The third aspect encompasses some of what has been discussed in this thread more recently. There has to be a cause and effect within the activity by the person or people doing it. If an object just leaves a hand and returns to it, that isn’t enough to be juggling, it’s merely a throw and a catch. That throw and catch might be difficult, but if that doesn’t lead up to or flow into the next release of the object, it’s an isolated event, not juggling.
This means that a devilstick tapped between two handsticks is juggling, because the “catch” of the devilstick on one handstick leads directly into the next release back towards the other handstick. Catching a diabolo on a string generally causes it to run along the string, ready for it to be thrown again or swung into the next move. A cigar box is caught between two others, but to take it out from being trapped between those boxes is to release it into the air again, rather than move the hands to hold two boxes in one hand or somthing. A contact juggling ball that arrives back at the hand, or another point on the body, can just keep rolling to another place again.
A three ball flash is also juggling, because while each object is only throw and caught once, the first ball causes the next to be thrown, and so on, within the confines of the manipulators doing the throwing and catching. An object doesn’t repeat, but objects in total do repeat.
This also allows us to explain why shooting a basketball isn’t juggling. It is a throwing skill, dependent on gravity for both success and failure, but the successful delivery doesn’t cause the ball to come back to the hands that threw it, nor does it cause another object to be released.
Considering these together lets us explain why some things which, on the face of it, seem like they could be juggling don’t “feel” like juggling to many people.
Yo-yo? Classically there is a continuous connection via the string to the hand. Failure comes from string friction stopping the yo-yo from spinning, or the string tangles. The yo-yo returns to the hand not by gravity but the string winding back up.
The Bob Bramson hoop rolling finale trick. It’s a fun finale, but not juggling. There is no return of objects to the original manipulator. It’s as much juggling as playing ten pin bowling.
The Teslenko Finale involves throwing and catching, but no object is released again once caught, and none of those catches causes a following release. Putting a ring over the head once caught does require speed, but there is no catching action on the part of the juggler. The rings don’t even drop due to gravity, they are just forcibly pushed down onto the stack of rings already around the jugglers neck.
Footbag is juggling. Soccer ball juggling is juggling.
Rhythmic gymnastics isn’t juggling in its usual form. It is throwing and catching an object to demonstrate body skills and bodily control, but each throw doesn’t cause or flow into the next throw. Some rhythmic gymnastics manoeuvres are juggling, but most typically aren’t, and are not considered invalid moves for not being so.
Balancing an object isn’t juggling. Spinning a ball on a finger isn’t juggling. They are skilful activities often performed by juggler in juggling shows, but they are no more juggling than riding a unicycle or walking on stilts or doing a pirouette. They are used to demonstrate dexterity and control, and can be combined with juggling to increase the difficulty of a feat, but they do not become juggling.