Jen Slaw, who sometimes incorporates ballet in her juggling routines, works on pins at the Dapolito Recreation Centers Juggling Club on Clarkson St.
Where visitors keep the balls in the air literally
By Judith Stiles
Any working parent in New York City will say that life is a juggling act - a frenetic effort to keep all the balls in the air in a fast-paced city that never slows down. Juggling kids, work home, sometimes multiple jobs, or caring for aging parents is a formula for stress, so it is surprising to find any working parents with even a sliver of spare time that they can carve out to attend the Juggling Club at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center at Clarkson and Varick Sts. Working parents, singles, and seniors who have joined this club agree that trying to master the difficult challenge of juggling does not add to their stress, but rather getting into the rhythm of juggling is ironically a great stress reliever, and a lot better than taking aspirin.
Every Tuesday and Thursday night from 7 p.m. 9 p.m., over two dozen jugglers fill the gym at the Dapolito center without a designated teacher, where balls, rings, clubs (like bowling pins), even cigar boxes, are continuously tossed up in the air by expert jugglers. Marcus Monroe works with four clubs, frequently balancing one on his forehead, as he nonchalantly tosses the other three in the air, around his back, and under his legs with great ease, to the tune of I want to rock n roll all night, and party every day.
Tony Duncan, who has been juggling for 27 years, finds keeping fire and knives in the air not very hard. He adds, I love the zone I get into when I am juggling. It is that time where I am really focused where everything clicks, and it is just happening. Duncan believes that you do not need great reflexes to be able to juggle. Over the years, he has taught at least a thousand people the art of juggling and he emphasizes it takes patience, practice, and focus. If you can pick up a fork, put food on it, and put it to your mouth, then you can learn to juggle, he says with a laugh.
Young Jacob DEustachio of Greenwich Village began his juggling in elementary school where he was the hit of the P.S. 3 talent show, year after year. Now 14 years old and over six feet tall, he performs around the city at venues such as the Bindlestiffs Family Circus and the Greenwich Village Halloween parade. I like to come here and practice because my ceiling at home has way too many black scuff marks, he says while tossing yellow rings high into the air.
Master juggler, Jen Slaw, works on a routine juggling white balls while she uses her whole body to dance. With a background in ballet, she says the focus and discipline needed in dance is similar to juggling. Part of her routine incorporates the rhythmic rolling of the balls on her arms and across her hands to the beat of the music, which is no easy feat because her legs and hips are often swinging in different directions from her arms. She is preparing for an annual juggling festival at Pratt Art Institute in Brooklyn from April 1 through April 3, where she will be joined by other members of the World Juggling Federation. When Shaw performs, she and her comrades from Tony Dapolito Recreation Center call themselves the Carmine Street Irregulars.
Then theres Josh Weiner who can juggle up to six clubs, but better yet, he has an amazing routine where he juggles and spins several balls of different sizes. With a steady calmness, he spins one ball on his fingertip and as the spin slows down, he tilts his head back and catches the ball on his lower forehead, while he starts spinning two more balls, one on his left index finger, and one on his right. His right hand (ball on fingertip) will occasionally snake to his side and then behind his back, while the other ball is spinning on his left hand. This is no sweat for Josh. He has an otherworldly look on his face as the balls continuously spin on his fingers like planets in the solar system.
For more information about juggling performances and festivals, check out the Web site www.Jugglenyc.com, or stop by the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, (formerly the Carmine Recreation Center), 1 Clarkson St. to quietly observe the jugglers in the club. To join, the first visit is free and participants can continue with a center membership, $75 a year for adults. 212-242-5228.