Juggling Workshop: creating a routine part 1 – The idea.

I thought I’d write a bit about how I work as a juggler. I do hour-long shows, which mix creative and technical juggling with physical and spoken comedy. It’s taken me 10 years of practice to get to where I am now, which is a whole lot of work, so the least I can do is share some of my methods here, in case any aspiring juggler wants to follow in my footsteps.

As an example, I thought I’d look at my ring juggling routine. My process follows these steps:

  • Creating
  • Choreographing
  • Practicing
  • Refining
  • Performing

Then I repeat steps three, four and five, over and over. Step three is where I put in most of the work, and it’s always a struggle. But let’s take these in order, in a series workshop.


First you have no act, and then, after this step, you have an act, even if it only exists in your head. There has to be a reason for the act to exist, as I’m a big believer in Cause and Effect in juggling. Here were my criteria.

The act must:
– be self contained
– only use any props I already carry in my case
– fun for a general audience
– not rely on any spoken introduction, in case I need to perform it in a gala show
– technically impressive
– last about 4 or 5 minutes

– I can also perform it at a juggling convention, if the need arises.

I decided to make a ring routine, as I carried 7 rings in my case, and only ever used them for about a minute at the start of a Rings-Balls-Club routine. First I actually choreographed an extra minute of ball juggling to, and made that three-prop routine into a two-prop routine.

I use rings that are red on one side and white on the other. This is so I can make them change colour as I juggle, from the point of view of the audience. It’s a really great effect!

But last year I got a bit obsessed my three ring juggling, and worked out as many tricks and patterns as I could where, from the point of view of the audience, the rings DIDN’T change colour.

This, I realized, could be the basis of a fun routine. I could start with a minute of juggling, and do all kinds of interesting tricks with three white rings, and then BAM – the rings are red. Up until that point I wouldn’t stop, and wouldn’t want or expect any applause from the audience, but from then on they would always be wondering what might happen next.

However, I didn’t think just doing colour changing, or non-colour changing, tricks would be enough to sustain an entire routine.

Thankfully, during my long history of ring juggling, I’d also developed many ideas about spinning rings around different axis of rotation, especially with pancake throws. I knew I’d want to put these in the routine too.

Technically, I wanted to show off with some numbers juggling, so I knew I’d finish with six or seven rings. I’m pretty good with rings, so I knew this wouldn’t be a problem.

Finally, I knew I’d be able to stretch out what is normally, for me, the boring numbers juggling part of the routine, if needed, with a comedy bit I do which involves explaining a juggling trick while holding a prop in my mouth. It’s completely stupid, but handy because I don’t actually have to write any jokes, I just keep making stupid noises until either the audience stops laughing, or STARTS laughing.

And so the idea was there. I’ve actually practiced putting together routines many times in the past, so knew I what I was getting into from the start. The way I currently introduce this routine is like this:

“Unlike the juggling ball, which is just a point moving in space, the juggling ring is unique in that is can turn, flip, and rotate through all three spacial dimensions. and I’m going to add another dimension into my ring juggling tonight, and that is the dimension of colour. Colour? Just watch closely as I juggle these three white rings…”

And then I begin!

Next up I’ll talk about choreography.