Some have said that juggling is simply “dropping things in style.” Others insist that it’s all about how you keep throwing things up. Famous jugglers including Jason Garfield, president of the World Juggling Federation, have said otherwise: “You call juggling a sport and people laugh. You call juggling an art and people laugh. When you say there’s a juggle magazine people laugh a lot. But you punch them in the face, they stop laughing.” Fortunately, the members of the RIT Juggling Club do not follow this philosophy. Instead, the RIT approach involves a high degree of discipline, trial, and patience, where entertainment, pastime, and professionalism are combined in what can only be seen as a sport in a class of its own. This juggling club is serious business.
Eric Lannan, a fourth year Mechanical Engineering major and president of the RIT Juggling Club, views juggling as “the ultimate pastime.” He spoke about his past and present juggling exploits both in and outside of the club. “There are a ton of different styles that we really encompass in the club,” he said. “We use everything from juggling balls and clubs, to rings .... There is also staff and poi [forms of juggling], sometimes on fire but usually not. Still, we’re not allowed to juggle fire stuff at RIT for obvious reasons. It involves a lot of training.”
As president, Lannan has had an extensive juggling background, all the while balancing his academics, inventing new juggling moves, and pulling off sweet tricks. He usually finds himself sitting at his desk and juggling school supplies when he should be studying for exams. Still, he always finds time to finish his schoolwork.
Lannan first came across the club during his freshman year after seeing them on the Quarter Mile. After taking the juggling class taught at the Student Life Center, he quickly joined the club on campus. His experience from the class gave him the confidence to juggle three balls, but he wanted to learn a more advanced trick: How to juggle clubs. Since then, he has quickly moved on to master other techniques — with the help of his club mates.
“Juggling Club meets twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays and its meetings are structured around training sessions for specific techniques, followed by official club business,” explained Lannan. “We’ve also participated with campus events such as Up ‘til Dawn and the Midnight Breakfast. Recently, we had a mural painted in the tunnels between Nathaniel Rochester Hall and Gleason, which we finished this quarter.” The club meets directly after weekly sessions of the juggling class so that class members who choose both have the opportunity to take advantage of a continuous practice session. Lannan added, “Still, now that the weather is bad, we may decide to hold club meetings only once a week.”
The Juggling Club itself began in 2000, but RIT’s juggling class was said to have started on campus in 1977 under the guidance and direction of Greg Moss, the current senior associate director for Athletics and Recreation, as well as Jeff Peden, both experienced jugglers. This year will mark the 32nd Spring Juggle-In, which will be held from April 17 to 19 in the Clark Gym. The event is a fundraiser for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation, an organization that fights to cure dystonia, a disease which causes muscles to contract and spasm violently. Approximately five hundred participants are expected this year, coming together from all over New York State, the east coast, and even Canada to compete, exchange tricks, and network with other jugglers.
There will be a “five ball endurance” exercise and a “seven ball endurance” exercise, both of which test who can juggle the longest. “This year will feature an opening act by Wes Peden, the son of Jeff Peden, who is a world renowned juggler who returns every year,” said Lannen. Jeff Peden has trained with professionals from San Francisco Circus School and Cirque du Soliel. Currently, Wes Peden is attending a circus school in Stockholm, Sweden and is capable of juggling seven clubs as if he were born doing so.
According to Wes’ website, his shows feature “impressive techniques, strange shapes, metal convolution inventive hesitation, counter-clockwise conclusions, and more tricks than you can fit in a very large pickle jar.” With a description like this, the Spring Juggle-In appears to be ready to pump up crowds with lighting fast adrenaline.
For more information about the club, visit http://rit.edu/sg/jugglingclub. For anyone who wants to see juggling talent at its best, check out Wes Peden’s website at http://wespeden.com.