(After the large, mostly negative response I received after posting about calling juggling clubs “pins” in performance I asked a few of the more vocal naysayers if they’d be willing to write out their arugment for me to post here. I think it’s important that both sides of the arugment get the same chance to make their case. Ross is one of the people who agreed not with me, but to write something. You can learn more about Ross on his Website or you can follow him on Twitter @RBCircusArtist.)
It Doesn’t Matter What the Public Thinks, It’s Still a Club
by Ross Burton
Well, that’s the neatly provocative title out of the way. Let’s back up. A little bit…
First thing’s first. My thanks to Balls & Jokes for inviting me to write this entry. The blog post to which this is a rebuttal popped up on my Facebook feed and he and I disagreed a little in the comments section. But, because we’re sensible adults, we can disagree and still be civil to one another. And hence his kind invite to write this post. I think it is a testament to the strength of the juggling community that it is insulated against the usual internet-based name-calling and feelings-hurting style of discourse.
So, let’s dive in.
Those things you juggle, the ones that look a bit like bowling pins? They are clubs. Every art form and every technical skill-set and every hobby has its own set of nomenclature. Scientists don’t use “plastic roundies”, the use petri dishes. A ballerina does a plié, even if the audience doesn’t know what a plié is that is still what they do. And no matter how many times a customer asks for “that fluffy stuff”, the baker will keep on making pâte à choux (or choux pastry). Juggling is an art, and a technical skill-set, and a hobby. We in the juggling community need to hold ourselves to that high standard if we are ever going to expect those outside of the community to do so as well.
Crucially, one thing that art can do is to teach. And as a former teacher (and current circus skills workshop leader) this resonates strongly with me. When there is a mismatch of information it is the goal to get the less informed person more informed, not for the informed person to feign ignorance. An informed person should only stoop to a lower level if it is to help the other person climb. Obviously juggling should not let itself become dense and impenetrable to the public or possible inductees; I still want this to be an open and available art form. But nor should it misrepresent itself or pander to the audience; it should not validate the misinformation that already exists. The audience will recognise pandering and probably won’t appreciate it; give them some credit and treat them as a intelligent, curious people. I know practically nothing about ballet but if I saw a show or a rehearsal or went to a class where they used no technical terms at all I’d feel patronised and I would not be impressed. I know the depth is there and I expect to see some of it and learn from it.
The juggling world is vibrant and friendly and wonderful and, yes, technical. We are the arbiters of the juggling world and we can make it how we choose. Accessible, but not dumbed down. Welcoming, but not pandering. Informative, but not patronising. Clubs, not pins. Pins are for bowling.
Thank you for your time.