This year’s Israeli Juggling Convention was one of those very few conventions where everything comes together: great people, excellent shows, nice weather, a beautiful location, good food, lots of fun stuff to do and enough time to enjoy it all. The IJC is one of my favorite conventions and this year’s was arguably the best ever, certainly the best I’ve had the pleasure to attend. Scott Selzer has already written a very comprehensive report on this convention and I share most his sentiments, so I’ll focus on my personal experiences here and on what stood out for me most at this convention.
In juggling circles Israel is probably most renowned for its amazing young talents, the best known of which are most likely Ofek and Segev Shilton, who were of course attending the convention. Ofek is still a little rascal, laughing and joking all day long, and sometimes getting a bit into trouble (not really!). He’s starting to learn English in school. I can’t wait to be able to talk to him without interpreter or gesturing and wild guessing. Segev has grown up like mad during the past year and he looks great!
To give you an impression of the juggling level in Israel here are two examples: There are two kids (Ofek, 11, and Dekel, 13) who can do 3 Diabolos in the air as well as in the string, with little difficulty. The 7 ball endurance lasted at least 30 seconds, maybe even close to a minute, and was won by 14 year old Bar Mualem.
The guests this year were fantastic! The show they put together was the best I’ve every seen, anywhere, and I’ve seen quite a few! This is all the more remarkable in the light of the fact that they only had very little time to prepare and rehearse the show. How they did it, I don’t know. I’m just very thankful that I was there to see it.
Maksim Komaro came, together with his musician/juggling-partner Markus Lahtinen. I’ve seen Maksim perform before but this was the first time I’ve met him in person. He’s a very relaxed and friendly guy, as is Markus. They performed an absolutely wonderful, well choreographed and technically difficult half-hour show (in addition to their act in the international show) which was rightfully met with standing ovations. Markus plays contrabass and interacts very creatively with Maksim, who screams Finnish curses when he drops. It comes over quite positively, though, probably because he seems so nice and friendly.
Matt Hall I’ve seen perform at the EJC in Svendborg. Matt’s a great guy! He loves talking to people, giving workshops and hanging out in the gym. He’s always the first to jump up for standing ovations. I always assumed that he does juggling professionally, so I was very surprised to hear that he’s a (first class, from the looks of it) Japanese teacher at a High School.
Then there’s Tr’espace, the German/Swiss Diabolo Duo. They completely blew me away, both personally as well as professionally. Their act is by far the best Diabolo act I’ve ever seen and they’re such warm, friendly and interesting people! I can’t wait to meet them again.
I didn’t hang out with the guys from La Petit Travers much and I even missed their one-hour show, but I was quite impressed by what they did in the international show. Technically not overly difficult, but meticulously choreographed and very funny. Well worth seeing!
Jochen and Florian from Get The Shoe are, of course, celebrities. I knew Jochen personally but only got to know Florian in Israel. Not only that, I also performed a very disgusting act involving a glass of water and a toothbrush with them in one of the renegades. It was truly an honor. I don’t think I need to mention that their act is one of the best – ever. Everybody already knows.
Another highlight for me was Ori Roth’s performance in the Avi Rosenberg 3 ball competition. This competition is held anually (alternating between clubs and balls) in memory of Avi Rosenberg, an Israeli juggler who died in a car accident, and is sponsored by Avi’s family. Ori did a routine very reminiscent of Luke Burrage’s three ball act. He uses custom (or at least customized) music and juggles perfectly in synch with it, in his typical humble, detached style, rarely dropping. Technically, his act is certainly on par with Luke’s and it’s just as funny. Not surprisingly, Ori won the competition, with Maksim taking second place.
As much as I enjoy juggling and all that, the real reason why I came to this year’s Israel convention was a different one, though. Insiders already know that what really made me take this trip was the chance to again play Diski all day long! For those who don’t know (shame on you!) here’s what it’s all about: Diski is played on a wooden table which is divided into two halves – one for each player – by a wall which has a single hole in the middle. On each player’s side there’s an elastic string attached which runs across the board. Each player starts with 4 wooden disks. The objective is to get all disks through the hole into the other player’s half and to do this by shooting them back to the string which reflects them forward in the direction of the hole. It all sounds very difficult but it’s easy to grasp if you see a video of it, so here is Naama Roth (Ori’s sister) kicking Ofek’s ass (even though Ofek’s cheating – he’s holding the string and uses it like a catapult instead of shooting the disks against the string).
In concluding I’d like to say again that this was one of the best conventions I’ve ever been to and I’d like to thank Itsik, Ron, all the other organizers, the performers, and all the people at the convention for making this magical week possible!
More photos from the convention and from Jerusalem will be coming up over time on my Flickr page.