People of Choice: Gandini Juggling Project
By Cindy Marvell
The Gandini Project traveled from London to Niagara Falls to attend their first IJA festival. Though their primary goal was to perform an “event” of their own creation in the gym and teach workshops on juggling and movement, the four-person troupe completely immersed itself in the convention and ended up winning the People’s Choice Award.
They could easily be spotted throughout the week: Sean Gandini, the troupe’s founder, gracefully feathering his way through intricate ensemble maneuvers; Kati Yla-Hokkala, a former Finnish national champion in rhythmic gymnastics, competing as an individual with ring combinations and acrobatic poise; American Jay Gilligan, winning a bronze medal for his solo act between rehearsals on the side of the gym; and the latest recruit, petit 18-year-old Cecil, enchanting competition audiences with her inventive club juggling and using her dexterous, elusive powers to win numerous rounds of combat at the games.
Though veterans of the European convention scene, Niagara was the first IJA festival for the English troupers.
“We thought it would be very different, but in many ways it hasn‘t been,” Gandini said. “We have found the age range to be wonderfully bigger. Things are more organized, but one pays for that as well. It costs ten times more. But it’s worth it… one gets a lot of inspiration here.”
When not in residence at London’s Circus Space, the Gandinis tour in Europe, performing at dance and theatre festivals, including numerous concerts at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.
Sean first met Kati, who was visiting from Finland, during one of his street shows at Covent Garden. They joined forces soon after Ra Ra Zoo’s 1989 tour, which featured an early version of their intricate duet work with 5 balls, four hands, and lots of movement. Upon their return to London, they began taking dance classes together. They studied release technique similar to the style of American choreographer Tricia Brown, in which the body’s weight shifts and momentum take the dancer from one position to another with natural grace and fluidity.
“I have heard people say we are making ‘shapes in space,’ but that’s more like ballet or Cunningham,” Gandini said at the 1993 European convention in Leeds. “Our movement is all about getting from one point to another.” Since that time, the ensemble has only improved in complexity, rhythm and dynamics. Body percussion, in which Renegade club-whacking mingles with the sounds of stamping feet, is a new addition, and the troupe plans to spend the month of November exploring this with various teachers of the craft back in England.
In the Niagara “event performance,” as Gandini described it, one piece wove into the next purposefully yet without fanfare, drawing the spectators in as the variations took on an endless life of their own. Precise timing and concentration mingled with freedom of movement and incredibly sustained group interaction.
The bleachers were packed with attentive spectators throughout the hour-long piece, which was also flanked by curious onlookers, while the usual convention activity continued behind a blue backdrop. Given their post-modern style of dance, in which favorite T-shirts and dance pants are worn with natural elegance and aplomb, this set-up blends elements of street and stage work into an experimental whole.
It seems that juggling conventions, rather than just theatrical ones, have themselves played a part in the evolution of the Gandini Project.
A few hapless children wandered through, but without causing any disruption; in fact, they could become future members, or at least enthusiasts. After all, it happened to Jay Gilligan, who started training intensely with the Gandinis about a year ago and was thrilled to act as their American tour guide. With his incredible technique and ability to experiment with new styles of movement, Gilligan has been a welcome addition to the troupe.
Said Gandini, now in his thirties, “We have an American boy working with us now, and that‘s been very nice. It’s been a real treat working with him, he‘s very creative. Jay‘s prolific, he‘s fantastic.” Gilligan, an Ohio native whose work was a highlight of the European festival in Scotland last year, seems to be in his natural habitat here.
“We feel our work is seen better in the gym, where there’s no fake theatricality,” Gandini commented. “In the theatre, there are all these extra conventions that come in, which is a different ballgame.”
The Gandinis are also known among conventioneers for their movement workshops, which teach people to get from one point to another in the least obvious fashion. “I was particularly impressed by the people who came to the movement workshop,” said Kati, who was delighted to see so much movement in the youth showcase. “Everybody was so keen on moving and sometimes we have difficulty getting people into that idea, that it‘s okay to move around.”
The evolution of a Gandini project has followed a similar pattern; in fact it is one of the few styles of juggling to have absorbed new members and almost become a school of its own. No matter how chaotic and busy a convention floor seems, the mild-mannered quartet on the side of the hall always stands out for its posture, clarity of throws, and that distinctive ensemble flow. There always seems to be a bit more space hovering around their most complex variations because space is valued as a precious entity.
A recent change has been the addition of a second 4-limbed woman. Of course, most female jugglers have 4 limbs, but in this case the objects seem just as at home when circling around the ankles. Cecil Poncet was actually a pinch hitter for another Gandiniette who unfortunately broke her thumb and was unable to make the trip.
It seems incredible that Poncet had only been an official member of the troupe for one month before embarking upon her Niagara adventure. She has been training with the Gandinis as a student at Circus Space for one year. A native of Grenoble, site of this year’s European convention and coincidentally Gandini’s childhood home, Poncet studied intensely at circus schools in France for about 6 years before moving to London to continue at Circus Space.
In Niagara, Poncet and Yla-Hokkala both distinguished themselves in the solo competitions yet seemed to complement each other perfectly in the ensemble work. Yla-Hokkala, dressed in a white unitard, juggled rings in her competition act, which was actually a specially tailored version of a longer work. Like an egret that has found inner peace, she looped her pliant body around her innovative work with rings. Warning to potential imitators: use caution in attempting these moves unless you are a rhythmic gymnast, in which case take some classes from Michael Menes to bone up on ring twirling, tossing and interchanging of all kinds.
Poncet also captured kudos with her club work in the competition. Wearing a blue Chinese-style jacket, she exuded serenity and charm while performing gutsy tricks like 4 club flats, multiplex flings from the side, and a 5-club triple flash. In the Gandini tradition, props start on the floor and are worked in and out of the patterns.
One of Poncet’s most intriguing moves is her kick-up waltz, which suits the Gandini style to a tee, if not a T-shirt. Poncet adds a new spatial dimension to the upwardly mobile troupe, adding vertically linear possibilities. The music was a live mix, by turns meditative and percussive, with random text thrown in. Clips of Whitmanesque poetry enhanced the spatially oriented work.
“We had no idea what was coming,” said Gandini of the improvisational elements in the sound. From the juggling angle, however, it seemed little was left to chance. From “Window,” which Gandini described as “a simple weave with balls,” to the grand finale entitled “Loops,” which he calls “simple sharing patterns that constantly shift 90 degrees in space,” the collective hand and footwork kept the audience in a constant state of suspense and wonderment.
“Remembering Rastelli,” a ring quartet, was an audience favorite, as was Sean and Kati’s duet entitled “Ballroom,” in which their grace and elegance as a couple was allowed to shine through the most intricate combinations. Gandinis can come and go, but these two form the deep heart’s core of the Project, and it’s energy and radiance projects from them.
To have formed a style of “classical juggling” which carries over from balls to clubs and rings and accommodates the individualistic talents of diverse manipulators is quite an achievement, and obviously takes hours and hours of thought and practice. Gandini can site swap with the best of them; he also has a strong interest in mathematics as an art form unto itself, and this helps him create complex and untested passing patterns.
In his quest to combine art and science, Gandini found much to contemplate in Niagara. “I’ve particularly enjoyed meeting the Madison jugglers (the team of six that won the teams gold).
Gandini credits American jugglers such as Airjazz for influencing his work over the years: It‘s interesting that many of the people we looked to for inspiration, six or seven years ago, were watching us last night. That was a nice feeding-back into the machine.” Said Yla-Hokkala of her trip—not that she ever would—“I’ve enjoyed the festival. There’s lots of lovely people…I was impressed that there were all these very choreographed pieces, very nice
Perhaps the ultimate review of the Gandini Project’s Niagara collage can be gleaned from Gandini’s own comments about the IJA’s 52nd Annual Festival: “What‘s wonderful is the sheer number of events happening. Unless you didn‘t like juggling, it would be very hard to be bored.”
The New York Times
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2001
PEKING ACROBATS: IT’S IN THE SPIRIT
By CINDY MARVELL
IN China, children as young as 5 with acrobatic promise are recruited to train at special schools, where they follow a rigorous program of contortion, hand balancing, object manipulation, martial arts and character dance. Some of those children grow up to perform with the Peking Acrobats, China‘s elite troupe of gymnasts, jugglers, cyclists and tumblers.
The skills have been so admired in the western world that modern-day troupes like Montreal‘s Cirque du Soleil, San Francisco‘s New Pickle Circus, New York‘s Big Apple Circus and Australia‘s Circus Oz have borrowed from the techniques. Many have had Chinese acrobats on staff.
Since 1952, the Peking Acrobats have produced a fast-paced showcase of skill and unmistakable style. The 30-member troupe is made up equally of men and women, including 21 acrobats (age 12 and up) as well as musicians, led by Liu Yen. Ken Hai (or Hai Ken Tsai, as he is known in China) serves as artistic director.
”In China, the name Hai is synonymous with great acrobatics,‘‘ said Don Hughes, who has been co-producing acrobatic shows with Mr. Hai for 27 years. Mr. Hai, a fourth-generation performer of the Hai family, also designs the special silky costumes for the troupe; some of his protégés are working on the remake of the feature film ”Oceans 11.‘‘
In the Peking Acrobats’ visit to New Jersey before a three-week run at the New Victory Theater in New York, look to see elegant choreography, lively energy and a concentration that borders on the sacred. While each performance is an individually crafted effort of will, with the program tailored to fit the performer‘s carefully honed specialty, it is the historic and mythological connections that give this progression of acts their depth and dramatic effect.
The Peking Acrobats are not to be confused with the Peking Opera, although some of the same physical skills are used in both forms. In Chinese Opera, a highly conventionalized form of theater, the emphasis is on Confucian ethics and morality. Although they frequently performed for Chinese royalty, the acrobatic troupes are more grassroots in nature. While the musical drama of the Chinese Opera began in the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), the Peking Acrobats can trace
their origins to the Ch’in (Qin) Dynasty (225-207 B.C.).
During the reign of Qin Shi Huangdi there was a long and hard struggle to build walls, waterways and canals. Acrobatics evolved as a folk art, and Asian artwork includes images of contortionists and street performers.
The present troupe of Peking Acrobats began as an outgrowth of the Great China Circus, which achieved great popularity in the 1920‘s. The company then became an integrated professional acrobatic touring organization in 1958. The group leader is Cheng De Ping and lighting is designed by Rusty Strauss.
There is no singing or dialogue. Folk arts rooted in daily life form the basis of the entertainment. In the Lion Dance several performers inhabit a fleecy lion costume that quivers with life. The Lion Dance has Buddhist origins: the lion was believed to be a reincarnation of a woman who could be teased into revealing its true identity and granting protection from bad luck.
Look for jugglers and gymnasts, with a bit of a twist. Traditional Chinese jugglers manipulate jugs. A large ceramic vase is balanced on the head and shoulders and rolled around the body. The work of the antipodist, or ”foot juggler,‘‘ traditionally a woman, employs the complexity of a physics problem with the patience of an angelic artist. One of the most difficult forms of juggling, antipodism is performed lying on the back on a specially constructed stand. Up to four squares of fabric spin like magic carpets on the performer‘s hands and feet, wooden umbrellas are twirled and flipped, and mystery objects come into play.
The troupe does not like to ”glorify the individual‘‘ or invite comparisons by revealing identities of the performers, Mr. Hughes said. They prefer that audiences view the troupe as a whole in all its cooperative glory. Whether climbing a pagoda of chairs, balancing candles, spinning meteor bowls filled with water, or flying high in dive rolls over swirling flags, the Peking Acrobats are representing the People‘s Republic of China and they stand — on feet, hands or head — as a living tribute to a system driven to excellence.
New Jersey Performing Arts Center, One Center Street, Newark. Friday at 7:30 p.m.
McCarter Theater, 91 University Place, Princeton. March 12 at 7:30 p.m. (609) 258-2787.
The New York Times
SUNDAY, APRIL 11, 1999
MOTION AND COMMOTION:
THE JUGGLER’S ART, FROM TWO VERY DIFFERENT PRACTITIONERS
By CINDY MARVELL
EXPERIMENT: hold a ball out in front of you at arm‘s length. Drop it. Now, try to catch it with the same hand before it hits the floor.
If you anticipate the forces of gravity swiftly enough to catch the ball, you are a good candidate to see Michael Moschen in ”On the Shoulders of . . .‘‘ at the McCarter Theater next week. If, on the other hand, you miss the ball but devise a clever song about it that makes your friends laugh hysterically, grab your kazoo and head for the Flying Karamazov Brothers’ presentation of ”Sharps, Flats and Accidentals.‘‘
Though legendary as jugglers, the two companies have come to symbolize the splits — acrobatic and philosophical — in the field of ”new vaudeville‘‘ since its rise in the late 1960‘s and early 70‘s, when Mr. Moschen first encountered the Karamazovs at a jugglers’ get-together in San Francisco. He remembers passing clubs with Tim Furst, the silent Karamazov, after discovering that they lived in the same apartment house a few blocks from Haight-Ashbury.
”We‘re the greatest opposites you could find,‘‘ Mr. Moschen said in a telephone interview last week from his present base in Cornwall, Conn., ”but there are two major differences between us: they have longer beards, and I‘m a recluse.‘‘
Their itineraries read like a novel titled ”East Meets West.‘‘ Mr. Moschen grew up in Greenfield, Mass., the small town where, as a teen-ager, he entered an unlikely collaboration with his schoolmate Penn Jillette (juggling spitballs?). The four, sometimes five, Karamazovs, some of whom met as students of perpetual motion at the University of Santa Cruz in California, now reside in Seattle (their original farmhouse-studio-theater in Port Townsend, Wash., has become a bed-and-breakfast) and Hawaii, where they are currently performing and visiting their hippie abode at a jugglers‘ commune in Maui. They have just completed a tour in the Netherlands and Berlin.
Even those unfamiliar with ”new vaudeville‘‘ have probably seen both acts on the screen. The Karamazovs appeared alongside Avner the Eccentric in ”The Jewel of the Nile‘‘ in roles ranging from the pivotal (a knife-wielding assassin) to the percussive (culinary cacophony with pots and pans) to the perilous (juggling, eating and walking on fire). Rock-and-roll fans may be shocked to learn that Mr. Moschen did the juggling for David Bowie in the film ”Labyrinth”; he also juggled torches in ”Annie.‘‘ Both have made PBS specials.
The Karamazovs’ productions have titles like ”Juggling and Cheap Theatrics,‘‘ their immensely popular, Obie Award-winning show, or ”Juggle and Hyde,‘‘ for which they were nominated for an Olivier Award after a London run. Mr. Moschen‘s pieces have titles like ”Light,‘‘ ”S-Curve Dances,‘‘ ”Sticks‘‘ and ”Vectors.”
Mr. Furst began his Russian odyssey as the Karamazovs’ technician after graduating from Stanford University, running lights and sound and building props for the founding members, Paul Magid (Dmitri) and Howard Patterson (Ivan). The first time he joined the brotherhood onstage, it was only for one act: after materializing from the light booth, he ran through some passing patterns with silent dignity, then disappeared into the background. The trio received many compliments on the virtues of silence, and Fyodor was born.
Having found names in the Dostoyevsky novel (Rakatin, played by Michael Preston, will be the fourth Karamazov at the McCarter), the troupe had trouble finding audiences sophisticated enough to comprehend its jokes. Still, its popularity grew, fueled by intricate ensemble juggling and delightful groaners.
Back in the 60‘s they were performing at outdoor events like the Oregon Country Fair in Eugene. ”It was a lot harder to get booked then,‘‘ Mr. Furst recalled. ”Juggling, to most people, meant circus and children‘s shows.‘‘
Once they took the stage at the Goodman Theater in Chicago with their own rendition of Shakespeare‘s ”Comedy of Errors,‘‘ they never relinquished it. When the show repeated its sold-out run at Lincoln Center Theater in New York, nobody could deny that vaudeville was making a comeback, big time.
“If juggling is rhythm and rhythm is music, then juggling is music,‘‘ Mr. Patterson says. The Karamazovs play their own music, whether as a traditional chamber orchestra (if you consider Peter Schickele traditional) or when juggling marimba mallets or clubs with sleigh bells fastened on (particularly effective for renditions of the ”Mission Impossible‘‘ theme in the key of C, for chaos). Mr. Moschen performs to experimental instrumental music by David Van Tieghem, with choreography by Janis Brenner.
Mr. Moschen has always been in a class by himself. Other jugglers make objects agitate; he makes them levitate. Hoops, sticks, even a tetrahedron appear to float through his fingers and above his undulating, open hands. ”I made a rule that I would never close my hands around the object, and this led me to a new technique,‘‘ he said in 1992 at the International Jugglers’ Convention in Montreal.
In the early 80‘s, he was performing a lighthearted three-ball routine and spectacular fire-swinging finale as an original cast member of the Big Apple Circus. Seeking simplicity and isolation, he withdrew to a rustic studio in Vermont, far from the circus crowds. There, he laid down the law and kept his hands open, learning to slide them under, over and around a set of crystal balls purchased at a drugstore.
It was ”the first time my instincts kicked in and drove me to create a whole new technique,‘‘ he said. ”It was my first powerful creation experience.‘‘ When he caught a crystal ball on his forehead and balanced it as he knelt down and stretched out on his back, gazing intently at the sphere amid an invisible field of dreams, he took juggling into a new dimension.
If there is one old-vaudeville performer with a broad enough talent and scope to have influenced both, it was Bobby May, the consummate American juggler from Cleveland, a pioneer of the technique known as head rolls, in which balls roll around a juggler‘s head, chin and neck. In his arm-stretching three-ball routines and leg-lunging club acts he might have been the first juggler to combine modern forms of dance and movement with inventive technical juggling. He also had musical leanings, bouncing five balls off a drum while standing on his head and playing “Yankee Doodle‘‘ on the harmonica. Although Mr. Moschen cites May, who died in 1981, and the former Ringling and Big Apple Circus juggler Francis Brunn as his inspirations, he has largely been left to find his own path.
A compulsive risk-taker who works on the edge, Mr. Moschen is the second new-vaudevillian to have been awarded a MacArthur fellowship. (The first was Bill Irwin.) Despite his early success in ”Foolsfire,‘‘ a collaboration with the physical comedians Bob Berky and Fred Garbo, there are some who find Mr. Moschen a puzzling anomaly in a free-spirited profession. As he deftly rolls or spins a leaf-shaped object he calls the teardrop around his body, the physical properties of nature unfold. Substituting quiet intensity and almost mystical concentration for piquant flamboyance, Mr. Moschen gradually weaves his way into the heart and mind.
If you attend the International Juggling Festival at Niagara Falls this summer, you may see Mr. Moschen and Mr. Furst recreating their early forays in club- passing. You might see Mr. Furst temporarily on his own, kicking up clubs with his foot or recounting his adventures on the open road. If you sneak down to the basement, you may see Mr. Moschen rehearsing with a mystery object he describes as ”simple yet complex,‘‘ and seeking out new collaborations and branches to hang them on, if, as he says, ”I can just hang in there long enough to clone myself.‘‘ His future, as always, depends on the shapes of things to come.
FLYING KARAMAZOV BROTHERS McCarter Theater 91 University Place, Princeton Thursday to 8 P.M.
John Harms Center for the Arts 30 North Van Brunt Street, Englewood Friday at 8 P.M.
MICHAEL MOSCHEN McCarter Theater April 20 at 8 P.M.
Moschen Explores Shape of Juggling
By CINDY MARVELL
It is Sunday, August 1. The Niagara Festival has just ended, and all the juggling has been packed up and spirited away. In order to avoid the usual post-festival letdown, we have just driven from Buffalo to Lenox, Mass., to see a juggling show. This will have to fill a tremendous void, coming as it does fewer than 24 hours after the I.J.A. Public Show. Only an unparalleled artist from a parallel universe could follow this weeklong act: Michael Moschen in concert at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
That Moschen, and in the past the Alchemedians and Airjazz, have found acceptance here is in itself a significant development for the art of juggling. Founded by Ted Shawn and company, the Pillow presents dance companies and choreographers like David Parsons and Janis Brenner, Moschen’s longtime choreographer. Yet the Pillow’s doors have remained open to new vaudevillians, viewed by the management as “pioneers” of movement art. As Suzanne Carbonneau writes in a program essay on Moschen’s work as a juggler, “What better metaphor for the ultimate nobility of human beings—our ability to fly in the face of experience in order to wrest transcendence from long odds.”
In this case, the odds are that we will be impressed, perhaps depressed, but ultimately transfixed by the presence of a gently overwhelming genius who never lets his ideals out of his grasp. On the way to the mainstage space, we encounter an exhibit of photographs by Peter Angelo Simon, a follower of Moschen’s work and career, taken in the late
1970’s. “These pictures show Michael’s extraordinary centeredness while performing,” he writes, “He seems to organize the space around him. He is like the eye of the storm.”
Inside the theatre, “Light” is about to take shape. A summer breeze sends the curtain rippling outwards, and behind it Moschen has already begun. An unearthly blue reflection casts ripples of light on the stage. The curtain rises to reveal Moschen facing the audience and kneeling, focusing intently on four crystal balls rotating in each hand, the only other motion a gentle swaying of the body. Snatches of birdsong flit around this image of a man at peace yet constantly searching, gently exploring. Working his way down to a single contemplative sphere, Moschen seems poised to host a Japanese tea ceremony, introducing his audience to the illusory world of shapes and rhythms which he so consciously and cleverly inhabits.
Methodically rising, he recedes out of the spotlight and moves on to the shape he calls the teardrop. The physical properties of nature gradually unfold as Moschen uses the shape to conjure strangely familiar longings. As Moschen has often stated, he seeks to liberate the patterns of movement inherent in the objects themselves without losing the humanity of the juggler as a marked individual contending with the forces of the universe. Watching him twirl, manipulate, and caress an object, you might just as easily form tears yourself.
After replacing the prop in its stand, Moschen looks across the stage towards what appears to be the juggler’s moon, a large crescent hanging on a string. Alighting on the floor, the crescent rolls around him like a giant melon rind or the rib of a ship. Moschen lets a ball roll on the crescent, and finally sits down to observe the interaction of shapes he has set in motion.
They will continue for a time without him, like a child’s top after it has been dropped, yet without the child it is just a lonely prop awaiting the juggler’s return.
As the music takes an upbeat turn, balls roll across the stage in a staggered line. Soon a ball is rolling on Moschen’s stomach as he breathes, a reminder that all movement and gesture begin with breath, with the muscles around the solar plexus. The ball rolls into a chin catch, a perfect intro to the most classically vaudeville segment of the show. Wearing striped pants and white jazz shoes, Moschen manages to use his famous intensity to play his own straight man, eliciting laughs as he reacts to his stunt people: the balls themselves. A series of head rolls leads him to the triangle, which looms like an omnipresent yet accessible peak to be explored. With the energetic grace of a taiko drummer, Moschen begins his symphony on the bounce. White silicone balls crisscross the space in increasingly complex paths, creating a web in which Moschen plays both insect and spider.
“I feel like an Olympic athlete every time I get through that triangle piece,” he said after the show, and the shape does seem to alter between a trap and a zone of delightful discovery. Now and then he ducks under a ball as it appears to float overhead. When he jumps out, it is only to embrace a new form of play, a juggler’s tap dance in which a ball shuffles off the soles of his shoes. The punchy ending garners a burst of applause from the captivated audience, now in essence a vaudeville crowd wondering how on earth this is done, and whether it would work in their own kitchen.
One lucky gentleman gets an approximate idea as Moschen collaborates with a volunteer to digest an apple while juggling. It must be pointed out that this is not accomplished in the usual manner seen at your local renaissance festival; it is a way of expanding the meditation to include the entire audience, and why shouldn’t they get their chance to dance, too?
The next piece on the menu, “Sticks and Vectors,” though abstractly titled, plunges me into a sea of navigational and maritime imagery. The vectors, staff-sized sticks with arrows on one end, balls on the other, suggested harpoons being tossed in various configurations without actually leaving the hands of the imaginary harpooner. A supporting sculpture anchors the piece like a ship’s steering wheel as Moschen launches into another exploration of the physics of space. Balancing the vectors on his face, shoulder, and foot, Moschen seems to become a giant, 3-dimensional clock. The ball becomes and extra socket from which to swing the staff, adding to the complexity of the manipulation.
“They’re like stilts,” says the child next to me as a shape resembling a tetrahedron of vectors joined by a single socket emerges. As Moschen rubs the shape between his hands like a puddle jumper, it seems lifted by an inner electricity as it is raised overhead. When a miniature version of the vector emerges, Moschen lunges around and above it, using it to explore variations on the larger sculptural theme, a spatially effective device that surfaces throughout the program. Often the larger shapes make an initial impact while the downsized versions give Moschen the mobility to expand upon the images.
As Act II progresses, shapes make appearances like animals, sharing the spotlight for as long or as short a time as suits their particular natures in the moment. At the outset, Moschen appears in a gray unitard in “Circles.” A compass-like, isosceles shape seems to draw a circle around his feet as a striking shower of light flickers around him. The next circle, more familiar to jugglers, is the hoop he demonstrated at the Montreal Festival. This piece is accompanied by the most soulfully effective music in the show, and the hard-earned magic which floats the hoop between Moschen’s fingers and around his hands while he broods and hovers artfully around it, an active observer resembling a marionette player more than a juggler, culminates in one momentous throw, an act of release all the more climactic for it’s singularity.
As two big hoops take the stage, the music takes a Brazilian
percussive turn. By the time the truly giant hoop appears, the soundtrack has developed a circus atmosphere, which perfectly suits Moschen’s subtle, endearing buffoonery. It has been noted that Moschen has a childlike, off- balance quality whenever he goes up on his toes, a wonderful complement to the centered sureness of his spidery second-position plie. This playfulness seems to be just what this big hoop was looking for, and Moschen lets himself become comically dwarfed as the hoop eventually gathers it’s own momentum for an escape from control. Next follows a “mystery piece,” which Moschen would like more time to develop before it plays across the nation. Suffice it to say that it involves cylindrical shapes which rotate and swing around his hands.
Large curved shapes called “S-curves” hang from the ceiling, and once again miniature versions come into play as Moschen dances the rubbery shapes across the stage. As a transition into the final sequences, an elaborate wind chime takes center stage. Against a background of long, major chords, it twitters with joy, awakening us to the fact that it is a beautiful Sunday and the world is full of mystery, promise and unexpected joy. Lovely work with S-curves completes this chapter; Moschen has found harmony with these shapes one would not have thought possible for a representative of the angular human race.
“Fire,” breathes the child next to me, “dangerous, scary.” Yet he watches enthralled as a torch-swinging display sanctifies the space. There is music, yet what one hears most are the silences between the whooshing circles of flame. “Space is always there,” reads a quote of Doris Humphrey’s in the Pillow’s archival museum, “and there is nothing you can do about it.” It is always there for Moschen, the frontier of empty darkness waiting to be filled, even after the motion has ceased to allow for a well-earned standing ovation.
“My work is all about generating new work,” he tells some visiting Cornell jugglers after the show, advising them to pursue their own explorations of the craft. For the audience at large, his advice was much simpler: “go for a swim,” he suggested, though he would spend the rest of the afternoon packing his props and disappearing, circus-style, from the arena which seemed to exist for him alone the past fortnight.