Also on vimeo and juggling.tv.
It’s been two years since Luke Wilson died. I wrote about it at the time, but I also fell sideways into doing something more than writing.
There are some tricks or sequences that I really like the look of, but don’t ever bother trying, because they feel too much like a signature of a specific juggler. I’d never be able to learn the trick it as good as them, nor would I want to perform it, and I have enough tricks of my own to work on, so I just let it pass. A few days after Luke died, I decided to try out the 3 club kickup, a trick not original to Luke, but one he made a main focus of his club juggling.
Once I’d learned that, I tried out some of the other kickups in his best known club routine. When linked together, I got a sense for the choreography that I hadn’t before. Intrigued by what else I’d missed, I slowly worked through the entire 3 club routine, trying out the tricks and transitions, and noticing how the clubs flowed around the body… and so much more.
When I learned the 1 and 2 club sections, everything clicked. Adding the 4 and 5 club parts only added to the experience.
Luke Wilson – Club routine <-- Please go to JTV for iOS playback
And that’s the key. Just watching Luke Wilson juggle is interesting and entertaining, but personally juggling his tricks and his choreography is to experience first hand his juggling genius. There’s no way I’d have the innate mastery or deep thought processes about club juggling on my own, nor by watching him, nor by going to his workshops.
In a way, it’s a pity I waited until after Luke had died to learn this whole routine. I’d really love to chat with him about it, now that I feel I understand it at a deeper level. But learning all the tricks and transitions and choreography of a juggling routine takes so much time and effort… if you’re going to learn a juggling routine, you might as well learn your own. And believe me, it took me a few weeks to learn Luke’s routine, and then a few more weeks to get to the point I could do it without thinking, and months until I could juggle it without dropping.
But why should we only spend so much time on our own material? In the art world there’s the concept of copying the masters, an accepted way to learn from, and appreciate the genius of, great artists long dead. Why not do the same with juggling?
So after learning Luke’s club act, I thought I’d perform it for friends of mine (and his) at the Open Stage in the Living Room, a show in my own home. As I wasn’t just going to juggle, but actually perform in a show, I wanted to make it into a show. There’s no way I can look and act even remotely like Luke Wilson, and certainly could never learn the routine as fast and fluidly as Luke so it fit with his music. So I made the act my own, and found music that suited me better. I took out much of the acting and costume changes and fiddling with glasses. It’s an integral part of Luke’s original act, but not my interpretation of it. So I performed it just once, in May of 2013, as a tribute to Luke.
Then it just became a routine I juggled through once or twice a month, or when the mood struck me. Now, two years on from Luke’s passing, I thought I’d share it with the wider world. The video I have of me performing it live last May isn’t great, as I dropped two or three times, so I practiced the routine again over the weekend, and then set my camera to record it. Over the two years of juggling the routine it has morphed further from Luke’s original, as I add bits or tweak bits, never improving it, simply evolving it to suit me better. It will take too long to get it flawless, even for the camera, so I’ll settle for this merely dropless run instead. Who knows, maybe in another three years I’ll do some hardcore practice and get an even better version of the routine recorded.
Or, and I hope this happens, other jugglers will have a go at learning Luke’s routine. When someone dies you carry memories, and have photos and videos, and many other things. But now this routine, whenever I juggle it, is wrapped up in memories of Luke. Both his life, of course, but also his death, as I started learning it so close to his passing that it became just as big part of me coping with his death as talking to other people about him and writing about him on this blog.
It’s a better common reminder of Luke than the thing that still happens to me on a semi-regular basis:
“I’m a juggler too! What’s your name?”
In my head: “Should I just say “No, Luke Wilson is dead”? If they don’t know Luke Wilson well enough to not know I’m not him, and they obviously don’t know him well enough to know he’s dead, surely they won’t be upset if I break the news to them right now…”
What I actually say: “No, not Luke Wilson. I’m Luke Burrage, the other Luke.”
It turns out I’d rather not be the “No, Luke Wilson is dead” bad news guy.