More from: Life

Luke vs Luke 2014


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?”

“Luke.”

“Luke Wilson?”

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.”

“Ah, cool.”

It turns out I’d rather not be the “No, Luke Wilson is dead” bad news guy.


Spring Injuries 2014

In March I was moving a bounce juggling table (a massive slab of marble attached to a big bit of wood) in my cellar. I leant it up against a wall, turned my back on it, and it fell over. It hit the back of my leg. Hard. And stopped on the top of my boot, just above my ankle. A few centimeters difference could have meant a broken leg or a broken ankle.

So that was me out of action for the next three weeks, in terms of running and cycling.

By the time I visited the BJC, I was feeling just about ready to get active again. On the Monday I went out on a bike ride, on a bike I’d borrowed from my parents. I managed to get about 500m from the front gate of the convention site, if that, before skidding over at high speed on some gravel at the bottom of a steep hill and planting my face into the road.

But not just my face hit the road. Also my shoulder (not pictured), my right hip (not pictured), my left wrist (not pictured), my left knee (pictured), and my right hand (pictured). Also where the bike was trapped between my legs caused bruising on the back of my left leg (pictured) and the front of my right leg (not pictured).

I’m just about fit again now, though I still have a painful lump under my left eyebrow.

I could go into more details, but it just makes me feel stupid.

Spring Injuries

Spring Injuries: no description

Spring Injuries: no description

Spring Injuries: no description

Spring Injuries: no description

Spring Injuries: no description


I love to read comments and feedback about my blog posts. Please email me, I reply to every message: luke@juggler.net


Movies I watched in 2013

I looked back through the movies I watched in 2013 and made some lists. I watched 61 movies (at least, I think I missed a few). Overall, I think I had a good year watching movies.

Yup! (knew/heard it was good, was good):
District 9
Cabin in the Woods
Brave
2 Days in Paris
2 Days in New York
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek Into Darkness
Casino Royale
2001
Dumbo
Sunshine
Skyfall
Independence Day
Apollo 13
Psycho
Mary Poppins
Four Weddings and Funeral
Trainspotting
Terminator
Terminator 2
Les Miserables
Dredd
Source Code
Gravity
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Jurassic Park
2001
Fifth Element
Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Okay category A. The Anti-Disappointment (thought it would be bad, turned out better than expected (either good or okay)):
Green Lantern – took two attempts to get through
Megamind
Megamind
Dark Shadows
The World Is Not Enough
John Carter (of Mars)
Oblivion
Now You See Me
Cloud Atlas

Okay category B. Just Okay (knew/heard it would be okay, turned out okay):
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
A Good Year
Octopussy
Star Trek 2009
Flight
Robot and Frank
Despicable Me
Hitchcock
Slumdog Millionaire
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Despicable Me 2
White Christmas

Disappointment (heard/remembered it was good/okay, turned out barely okay/bad):
Perfect Pitch – took two attempts to get through
7 Psychopaths
My Fair Lady
Hugo – didn’t finish
Elysium

Known bad (heard/knew it was bad, was bad):
Armageddon
Jack the Giant Slayer
Man of Steel

Ultimate Disappointment (heard it was bad, turned out worse than I could imagine):
Prometheus
The Great Gatsby

Seen before (26):
2 Days in Paris
Armageddon
Octopussy
The World Is Not Enough
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek 2009
Casino Royale
2001
Dumbo
Sunshine
Skyfall
Independence Day
Apollo 13
Psycho
My Fair Lady
Mary Poppins
Four Weddings and Funeral
Trainspotting
Terminator
Terminator 2
Source Code
Jurassic Park
2001
Fifth Element
Curse of the Were-Rabbit
White Christmas

All (61):
Green Lantern
Megamind
Prometheus
District 9
2 Days in Paris
Cabin in the Woods
Brave
Armageddon
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
A Good Year
Megamind
Perfect Pitch
Dark Shadows
Octopussy
The World Is Not Enough
Two Days in New York
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek 2009
Star Trek Into Darkness
7 Psychopaths
Flight
Casino Royale
2001
Dumbo
Robot and Frank
John Carter (of Mars)
Sunshine
Skyfall
Independence Day
Despicable Me
Apollo 13
Jack the Giant Slayer
Oblivion
Psycho
Hitchcock
My Fair Lady
Mary Poppins
The Great Gatsby
Four Weddings and Funeral
Trainspotting
Slumdog Millionaire
Terminator
Terminator 2
Les Miserables
Dredd
Source Code
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Gravity
Man of Steel
Despicable Me 2
Hugo
Now You See Me
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Cloud Atlas
Jurassic Park
Elysium
2001
Fifth Element
Curse of the Were-Rabbit
White Christmas


Luke Wilson

I’m not sure where this is going, but I have to write something. Luke Wilson died a few days ago, and the news hit me really hard. Hopefully this can clear up, for myself and anyone interested, just what he meant to me, and what’s going to change in my life now he has gone.

Pretty often I’d meet a juggler for the first time, and after a brief introduction, they would ask me: “Are you Luke Wilson?”

“No,” I’d say, “I’m the other British professional juggler who lives in Germany, has a German girlfriend, travels and performs around the world, hosts shows at many conventions, etc, etc… and who is also called Luke. I’m the tall skinny club juggler called Luke, and Luke is the small skinny club juggler called Luke.”

I can see where the confusion might arise. Luke and I acknowledged the confusion, and our position of being the two Lukes in the juggling world, with a our online rivalry both claiming to be the Real Luke.

Back in early 2001 I invented a ring trick. You place a ring on one ear, and with a shake of the head, you transfer it to the other ear. I showed it off in a best trick competition at the BJC 2001, and it got a good reaction. Other jugglers started calling it Luke’s Ear Ring Trick, which I thought was pretty cool. Then someone said they had seen Ian Merchant doing it a few months before. Which I also found pretty cool, as so many times two jugglers build on the same existing concept to come up with the same new trick.

After writing about this on my website, I got an email from Luke Wilson saying:

“What is the trick? If it involves hanging the ring on one ear, and then
flipping it around your face to a catch on the other, then the name is
correct :-)

If the trick is another: please expand details!

Regards,

Luke (Not Barrage But Wilson)”

As you can see, right from the start, we had more in common than just our name. We’d both invented the same trick! The ambiguity of “Luke’s Ear Ring Trick” seemed to make sense. We stayed in contact from then on for various reasons, including the fact that people presumed that the luke@juggler.net email address would reach the Luke Wilson, and not the actual Real Luke (why would the non-Real Luke have the juggler.net address?).

Later in 2001 I attended Luke and Ben Richter’s workshop at the London Juggling Convention called “Encyclopedia of Contemporary Club Juggling”. It inspired me to write up my thoughts about ring juggling in a similar categorical way, leading to The Endless Possibilities of Ring Juggling essay/workshop guide.

I could go on and on about the small ways Luke Wilson influenced and inspired me in my early years as a juggler. I’m sure everyone has similar stories. His presence in my life grew though, into a friendship. We weren’t as close friends as others, but we were good friends, and constant friends, due to the similar paths we’d chosen in life, and due to the similar paths life had chosen for us.

It’s only now Luke has died do I realize that Luke’s constant presence became the guide for my entire life. I never thought “If I could be like anyone, I’d be just like Luke Wilson!” and, as I said, so much of life is outside of anyone’s control.

But Luke was four years older than me, and so often the same number of years ahead of me in terms of his juggling career. Sometimes more, sometimes less, I guess. If ever I wondered if I was doing okay in my progression as a juggler, Luke’s life and career was my go-to guide to know I was on the right track.

Luke Wilson performed in the BJC public show in 2000 as a Gandini, and in 2003 in his Luka Luka double act with Ilka Licht. Well, once I’d performed in the same show, I knew I’d be on my way. In 2004 I performed in the BJC Public Show as a solo act, and headlined the Dutch convention gala show… but then I met Luke backstage at the EJC that same year, and he was performing his devilstick act. In the Gala show… for second year in a row, having already performed with Ilka in in the 2003 EJC Gala.

Well, not to worry, the EJC Gala was a still a few years off for me. Pola and I performed our double act in both the BJC and EJC Gala shows in 2006.

At Bamberg Zaubert, a street show festival, I noticed Luka Luka listed as a previous winner. Once Pola and I won the main competition, I sent Luke a message about it. His response?

“I won it twice, once with Ilka and once as a solo magician.”

12 months later, when Pola and I won the same competition for the second year in a row, I felt I could continue the conversation with Luke as an equal.

“Luka Luka” and “Luke and Pola”, two English-German juggling couple duo club juggling shows. Here’s Luke Wilson and Luke Burrage similarity trivia fun fact number 83: both Ilka and Pola, our respective juggling partners and first German girlfriends, lived in Aachen. Ilka also studied architecture, and Pola worked as a graphic designer for an architecture firm.

Of course, both of our relationships with our German juggling/life partners ended, and we both had to go through the same issues that brings up, professionally and otherwise. Thankfully Luke had gone through that years before me, and while I we didn’t talk about that in depth, I remember thinking “It won’t be a problem… Luke’s been there and done that, so I should aim to be as professional about it as he was.” Pola and I went on to perform our last contracted shows together, despite the pain and annoyance of breaking up, and we’ve stayed friends since. Both Luke and I found new German girlfriends (you know, because we both lived in Germany), and earlier this year he followed my lead, for once, moving to Berlin.

So it was never conscious decision to do what Luke did, but in any professional situation, Luke was my go-to guy. Often we’d chat online or in person, and our conversations would typically revolve around our common job and work. To be clear, our work was traveling. We had ongoing battles comparing how many flights we took per year… with the loser being the one who’d flown more times.

But our common job was performing juggling. We weren’t just jugglers, we were performing jugglers. I don’t remember a single conversation in the last 6 years about juggling itself, or any kinds of trick. It was all about performing. Which is good, because we could both talk endlessly about our views on performing and our approaches to stage craft.

Here’s a random exchange from Skype:

Luke Burrage: Just found a video on an old hard drive of you performing a club routine, outside, in the wind, with trees behind, and you’re wearing a pink top. When was this?
Luke Wilson: EJC Edinburgh opening show, 1998.
Luke Wilson: I think, to my shame, that I even hold up a moistened finger to indicate the wind…

Our onstage personas and juggling style differed in so many ways, with his based on crisp precision and mine on exuberant freedom. However, at the roots of both our shows we always found similar ideas and ideals, with both of use knowing the reason for every single element of our acts, and why we included or excluded simple things such as individual blinks or turns of our hands.

In 2008 I was in charge of the EJC open stage tent, and I decided to make a list of all the possible jugglers I knew I could rely on to host a show in a professional manner. I wanted someone who I knew could do a good job, and because I’d be busy doing other work, I wanted them to be able to do it without any input or help, and more importantly, would cause me no stress at all.

When I’d finished compiling that list, Luke Wilson’s name wasn’t just at the top of the list, it was the only name on the list. Just Luke. Nobody else I’d worked with before or since at juggling conventions came close to his level of preparedness and experience.

And so, of course, I spent some of my meager budget to make sure Luke would be there to host a show. In the end Pola and I only ran four of the open stage shows, so I hosted two, Pola one and Luke the other. Luke was, of course, utterly professional, so much so that we hardly had to talk about the show itself at all. Which is exactly how it should be! The technical crew of the open stage venue said that the four shows we put on were all better organized and presented than gala shows at other conventions.

At the EJC in 2010 I once again ran the Open Stage shows, and asked Luke Wilson to host again. Throughout 2008, 2010 and 2011 (when I was running the open stages at the EJC) I was always inviting new people to host shows, with varied results, some bad and some good. With Luke though, I knew that even his worst show would be good. I knew because everything he did, and every decision he took, and every way he responded on stage, was based on a strong foundation of technical performing knowledge and a deep understanding of the concepts and philosophies of being entertaining. This was backed up by a successful career as a professional juggler and show moderator.

So often I didn’t even have to ask Luke about a subject, it was good enough to consider “What would Luke do?” Then next time we chatted online it could be about Star Wars or bikes or all the other geeky interests we had in common.

What all this builds up to is why Luke’s death it me so hard. Like I said, we weren’t close personal friends, which is why I didn’t know he was struggling with cancer until a few days before he died. Our busy work and travel schedules rarely coincided enough to schedule social visits. But Luke was a good friend, and a constant friend.

The fact is, I always presumed Luke would be around, and I always presumed he’d be a few years ahead of me as a professional juggler. Time after time I’d perform somewhere, and Luke had performed there before me. At the Israeli Juggling Convention in 2002, I found it amusing how many jugglers were doing his style of club juggling, as he’d been there in 2001. Repeat this and other similar stories over 10 years, and I gained a huge appreciation on how treasured he was in the juggling world.

More recently, Luke taught at circus schools, and he directed a show at the Leipzig Krystalpalast. My unconscious presumption was that, within about four years, I’d also be teaching at circus schools and directing shows. It’s not something I’ve been actively pursuing, but because Luke has gone there before me, I kind of assumed that it was where I’d be heading in the future. I have my own projects and plans, of course, but it’s more on the level of what I can be proud of accomplishing.

Luke Wilson has always been the standard, or the yardstick, that I’ve used to measure my own progress. He hasn’t been my guide in terms of “I have to do what Luke does” but instead in terms of “how am I doing? (glance at Luke) Okay, I’m doing just fine.”

And now I don’t have guide. I’m now the only Luke who is a professional juggler from England living in Germany… with all the other similarities we shared, those we chose and those which just came with the job and life.

In four years time, I’ll have caught up with the end of Luke’s path ahead of me. I’ll be striking out without him. Our journey together, offset as it was, will end.

The reason I’m crying as I finish writing this is that I never told Luke how much he meant to me. Partially this is because he kept his suffering private, and I simply had no opportunity to explain all this.

But the main reason is that I didn’t even understand this all until he died. I didn’t just lose a someone, a friend, I lost something else I didn’t even realize I had until it was gone.

I thought that when a friend died I’d not mourn their death, but celebrate their life. I tried to do that with Luke, but all I could think about was Luke’s future and how much it meant to me. I didn’t understand my grief over the loss of Luke’s future for a few days, but I think I worked it out. It’s selfish, I know, this presumption that he’d always be Luke A and I’d always be Luke B. I was invested in Luke’s future in a way that can only come all the facets of life we shared, and I didn’t understand that until it was too late to tell him.

Now I’ve got to get on with life myself.

Thanks for reading.


The Tjibaou Cultural Center, New Caledonia – November 2011.

Years ago I read a big book called “Buildings of Wood”. It’s a big coffee table style book, with loads of amazing pictures of amazing wooden buildings. I made a note of a few of the buildings, making sure I visit them when I had the chance, and I’ve ticked a few off the list, including buildings in Sweden and the Faroe Isles.

Wood isn’t a very common building material for modern buildings, but one really stood out. The Tjibaou Cultural Center is in New Caledonia. But New Caledonia is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Why would I ever be passing through? But as it happens, my job means I could turn up anywhere in the world. I had just one plan for New Caledonia, and I managed to get across to the Cultural Center and back, and not miss the ship.

If you ever visit, and just want to take a photo from the outside of the building (like I did, as I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough time to look inside), you must park a distance away, then pay to get into the grounds. It’s not possible to get close without buying a ticket. Which I didn’t know. But by the time I got there, after many years and after traveling half way round the world to see it, I just paid the money and checked it out. I’m glad I did. It really *is* a unique building.

New Caledonia

New Caledonia: no description

New Caledonia: no description

New Caledonia: no description

New Caledonia: no description

New Caledonia: no description


I love to read comments and feedback about my blog posts. Please email me, I reply to every message: luke@juggler.net