How to Juggle: the 3 Ball Cascade
If you’ve looked at the Glow Company’s range of light-up juggling kit, you can imagine how cool it would be to see those balls looping through the night air, thrown by invisible hands (whether you’re own or someone else’s). If you’re thinking about buying them as a present, though, it’s always good to know that the person you’re giving them to can juggle – and if not, that you can always teach them how.
If you don’t know how to juggle already, the good news is that it doesn’t take long to learn the basics. After you’ve learned the simplest form of juggling, the ‘three ball cascade’, there are infinite variations and tricks to progress to.
You might have seen jugglers in cartoons throwing balls around in a perfect circle or oval, all the balls going around in the same direction. This is called the ‘shower’. In actual fact, it’s quite a bit harder and arguably less impressive than the cascade, which looks more like a fountain and involves the balls travelling round in a figure-of-eight shape. Unlike in the shower, each hand is doing exactly the same thing in alternation, throwing the balls to the opposite hand in time to be empty to catch the one coming in.
Start with just one ball. Hold it in your right hand (or the left, if you’re left-handed) at the side of your body, about waist height. Then with a looping motion, bring the hand down and upwards again in the centre of your body. Release the ball as it comes back to your waist to throw it in an arc up to head height and across to your left hand, which will catch it as it comes down at the outside of your body – in the exact mirror position to the one you started in.
And that’s it: the basic juggling move for a three ball cascade. Juggling simply involves alternating this movement between hands, keeping the balls moving fast enough so that you’re never holding two in any one hand at a time.
Practice the basic move with both hands until you can throw a ball from hand to hand – which will probably take you all of a few minutes.
When you’ve done that, take a ball in each hand. Throw one ball as you’ve just practised. This time, the catching hand will already be holding a ball of it’s own. Before you catch the first ball, you’ll need to throw this one... so throw it. Because it’s unlikely you’ll catch it perfectly the first time, just throw it anywhere. Practice throwing one ball and then getting rid of the one in your catching hand before the first one lands.
As you become more proficient at this, try throwing the second ball in the same basic move, back to the first hand. Soon you’ll have a nice one-two pattern going: throw, throw, catch, catch. Practice starting with both left and right hands.
Adding the third ball
Finally, start with two balls in your right hand and one in your left. Throw just one from your right and follow the same throw, throw, catch, catch pattern you’ve just practised. There will already be a ball in the second catching hand (the right), but don’t worry – you’ll need to get used to this if you’re going to finish juggling without dropping all the balls on the floor.
After practising this a while, drop or throw away the second ball in your right hand before you catch the one incoming from your left. So the pattern is: throw (right), throw (left), catch (left), drop/throw (right), catch (right).
And finally, throw that last ball back to the other hand, rather than just anywhere. All you need to remember is: keep alternating with the same basic throw, making sure that each hand is empty (because you’ve throw the ball that was in it) before you need to catch another one.
For most people the whole learning process generally takes less than an hour. It can help to stand in front of a wall, since you’ll often find you’re throwing the balls too far forwards, but it won’t take long to adjust your throwing to correct that. And that’s it: your first step towards a career in the circus.
Three ball juggling tricks
It shouldn’t take you long to master the basic three ball cascade – most people can manage it in less than an hour. You’ll find that juggling can be quite addictive, and with a little practice you’ll soon be proficient. After that, your mind will naturally turn to how you can develop your new talent. Adding more balls is one way – juggling four or five balls isn’t so different to juggling three, it’s just that your hands have to move faster. There are also different ways to juggle – for example, the three ball shower rather than the cascade. And, of course, there are endless tricks to learn.
Three ball shower
The three ball shower is another way to juggle three balls. This time, the balls all move around in the same direction. If you’re right-handed, then you’ll find it easiest to throw them in an anti-clockwise pattern. Switching to clockwise is actually quite difficult – although, when you’ve learned both, it can look quite impressive to switch between clockwise and anti-clockwise.
For the shower, your two hands do different things. One hand (the right, if you’re right handed) throws the balls high up and across to your left. The left, meanwhile, quickly passes the balls the short distance back to your right, rather than throwing them in a cascade. You’ll find that your hands end up moving a lot faster this time – in fact, you might find it easiest to start with two balls to get the movement right before adding in the third.
Once you’ve mastered three, you can add in further balls since the pattern is exactly the same. Be warned, though – showering more balls is significantly harder than cascading them.
Some basic tricks
Here are some simple juggling tricks – a couple that you can do on your own, and two that you will need a juggler friend to help you with.
One of the simplest tricks there is. Instead of catching a ball, let it fall and then bounce it off your knee and continue juggling. When you’re good at it, you can knee every ball you throw.
You can vary this trick for different body parts. Try knocking one off your elbow, bouncing one off your head or letting one fall almost to the floor before kicking it back up again with your foot.
2. Under the leg
Instead of throwing every ball the same way, from the centre of your body to the outside, mix it up a bit by lifting your leg and throwing one underneath it every now and again. You will find you can buy yourself some more time for these tricks by throwing the balls a bit higher. If you’ve got enough time in between catches, try sending one behind your back, or spin around and carry on.
3. Two-headed monster
For this one you’ll need a juggling friend and a large jumper. Pull the jumper over both of you, so that one of you has an arm in each sleeve. It takes a little co-operation, but with a bit of practice you’ll be able to juggle together, one of you doing the right hand throws and catches and the other the left.
This is a relatively easy trick that takes a bit of getting used to but looks great. Ask a friend to juggle three balls while you stand in front of them. As the balls reach their highest point, pluck them out of the air and begin to juggle with them yourself. This feels a bit strange to start with, and it will take a little while to get the timing right, but after a while you’ll be able to take the three balls off them and seamlessly cascade them yourself, leave the friend empty-handed while you walk off, juggling the balls they’ve just lost!