For the love of the craft: UMass Juggling Club

By Eleanor Harte

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(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian) (Andrew Wglinski and Eli Baer warm up with basic juggling techniques.)

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian) (Andrew Wglinski and Eli Baer warm up with basic juggling techniques.)

In a secluded corner of the Campus Center basement, a group gathers every Tuesday. Some throw multicolored balls into the air: two, three, four in row. Some throw clubs and some throw rings.

This is the University of Massachusetts Juggling Club and they meet every week to improve their skills in the art of juggling.

For members of Juggling Club, their meetings are social events and learning experiences rolled into one.

“We’re a very informal club,” said Michael Chapman, vice president of the club and a junior computer systems engineering major. Chapman has been juggling for about five years, joined the club two years ago and said his skills have grown enormously since then.

“Pretty much our practice is standing around like this, hanging out and juggling,” said Chapman as he tossed three balls in the air.

Hannah French, a senior environmental science major and the president of the club, learned to juggle at a circus camp, where she also learned other skills, like acrobatics and performance skills.

She also ran a circus camp in her backyard for multiple years, so she is accustomed to teaching all skill levels. She taught a number of the current members how to juggle and said it is very rewarding to see how their skills grow.

Chapman said people are always willing to teach others.

“One of the great things is that there’s always more,” said Chapman. “It’s not like you run out of things to learn.”

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian) (Eli Baer, Michael Chapman, Matthew Lee, and Andrew Weglinski practice by throwing pins and juggling balls)

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian) (Eli Baer, Michael Chapman, Matthew Lee, and Andrew Weglinski practice by throwing pins and juggling balls)

While the club is diverse in the field of majors and skill levels, French is one of the only females in the club. She would love for more women to join the club, especially because she believes the juggling field is male dominated.

“Usually it’s me and a group of guys,” she said.

Juggling Club has anywhere from 10 to 15 consistent members, though the numbers change seasonally.

“There’s much more when it’s warmer,” said French. “It’s pretty much doubled because people walk by and see us and they want to join in and learn.”

The club doesn’t do performances, but different members of the group have performed at campus and town events, like parents’ weekend or talent shows.

One of the group’s most common tricks is known as ‘club passing:’ performers each hold three clubs and throw them back and forth to each other. It’s dizzying to watch, with the constant movement of clubs flying in the air.

In warm weather, the group meets outside between the Student Union and the Campus Center on Tuesday evenings between 5 and 7 p.m. Otherwise they meet by the Hatch in the Student Union.

“Juggling Club is awesome and everyone should come,” said Coon.

“You don’t have to know how to juggle to join,” added French. “We welcome new people all the time.”

Eleanor Harte can be reached at [email protected]