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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
No strings attached
By Mike Lloyd
For BBC News Online Scotland

Contact juggling
The juggling balls are rolled over the body
Experts in the art of contact juggling are preparing to meet at an international convention in the Stirlingshire village of Thornhill.

Centuries old, this esoteric art is enjoying a revival, thanks to the invention of acrylic juggling balls and a David Bowie film Labyrinth.

Unlike conventional juggling, nothing is tossed and caught. Instead the balls are rolled from one part of the body to the other.

"When they see it, people ask if there's a magnet inside the ball or where the string is," said convention organiser Daniel Kerr.

"It is very calming, very relaxing and the visual effect is fantastic,"
Andy Wilson

Fellow organiser Andy Wilson said: "It takes a lifetime to learn and it has a steep learning curve ...it took me a week of very hard work to feel I was getting anywhere at all."

Mr Wilson said the technique is based on finding small hollows in the body, like the acupuncture traps in Chinese medicine.

You hold the ball on these points and roll it to others around the body.

"It is very calming, very relaxing and the visual effect is fantastic," he said.

Mr Wilson said juggler Michael Moschen really fired the public imagination with his stunning sinuous and flowing contact juggling, in Bowie's Labyrinth.

However, he believes that, the film aside, it has been the availability of acrylic, which has helped the art form take off, as the plastic material has all the right qualities for juggling.

Contact juggling
The art "takes a lifetime to learn"
The British Contact Juggling Convention will see up to 70 jugglers from a dozen countries, practising their routines simultaneously, watching and learning skills from each other.

But the convention is not exclusively for jugglers; the public are invited to the final show, which features a performance by a group called Full Moon.

Their act involves, "two choreographed routines, with my movements fitting to music written by my partner", according to Full Moon's Jago Parfitt.

For him this juggling is more about art, than technique.

Public awareness

"When you watch conventional juggling you tend to say, 'it's amazing they can do that', but when you watch contact juggling you think, 'that's really beautiful'."

Daniel Kerr is grateful to the Bowie film for bringing contact juggling to public attention but he says it is time to broaden the appeal.

If raising public awareness is so important though, is rural Thornhill really the place to hold the convention?

It turns out, Thornhill was chosen for a particular reason.

"It is where I went to primary school and they've just built a new hall there," said Mr Wilson.

The British Contact Juggling Convention runs from 18-20 July.


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