A Creative Collection of Dynamic Manipulation

The art of dynamic manipulation, also commonly referred to as contact juggling, sphereplay, spherical balancing and orb rolling, is a unique form of juggling in which balls are made to move over the hands and body via subtle movements. Incredibly kinetic, dynamic manipulation has many styles and is often combined with dance to create arresting routines.

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A Brief History of Dynamic Manipulation

The modern form of dynamic manipulation has many antecedents. It is the way these diverse stylistic elements are seamlessly forged together in performances that makes modern dynamic manipulation methodology so enthralling.

For example, palmspinning was practiced in China during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), using small metal Baoding balls. The manipulation of these balls was believed to cure a variety of ailments. Oriental jugglers working as circus performers also introduced bodyrolling to the west in the 19th century. Their magnificent moves proved inspirational for famous western body rollers like Paul Cinquevalli (1858-1918).

Vaudeville and gymnastics may seem a curious combo, yet both played a part in the formation of dynamic manipulation. The single ball rolling and sleight of hand of the British magician Cardini (Richard Valentine Pitchford, 1895-1973), routines devised by rhythmic gymnasts incorporating bodyrolling and the forearm rolls and dynamic balancing of juggler Tony Duncan were all highly influential.

However, the father of modern dynamic manipulation is the ingenious performance artist Michael Moschen. Moschen’s superb style of dynamic manipulation truly revolutionised the art and he received the MacArthur “Genius Grant” in 1990 to develop it further.

From the 80s to the present day, Moschen’s dynamic manipulation, best described by the New York Times as “a visual music in space”, has astounded audiences with its fluid technical dexterity. Moschen also introduced dynamic manipulation into the mainstream when he performed the crystal ball scenes for David Bowie’s Jareth the Goblin King in the 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth.

There have been two large controversies within the world of dynamic manipulation. Firstly, the publication of the book Contact Juggling (a term loathed by Moschen) in 1990 by James Ernest led to claims that jugglers were claiming the techniques of Moschen as their own without giving due recognition to their originator.

Secondly, the highly successful Fushigi Magic Ball, first marketed by Zoom TV in 2010, caused uproar within the dynamic manipulation community, who saw it as an attempt to assign a brand to their art. Many jugglers also claimed the Fushigi ball was advertised deceptively, because its creators claimed the numerous tricks possible were due to the properties of the ball, rather than the skill of the juggler.

Despite incidents of internal conflict, the dynamic manipulation community continues to create moments of jaw-dropping beauty within their routines. The best routines often successfully combine a variety of dynamic manipulation techniques with different dance styles.

Different Techniques of Dynamic Manipulation

These are the main techniques of dynamic manipulation prevalent today:

  • One Ball Tech: Due to the featureless surface of the ball it is often impossible to tell that it is spinning. When the ball is moved around the palm or body, the performer creates the illusion that it is levitating.
  • Bodyrolling: Bodyrolling involves the performer rolling the ball over their neck, chest, arms and legs, keeping it in continuous fluid motion.
  • Isolationism: Another way of creating the illusion of levitation, isolationism differs from one ball tech in that the ball stays motionless, while the performer moves their body and hands around the ball.
  • Palmspinning: The performer holds two or more balls in one or both hands and manipulates them to move around each other upon the palms to stunning effect.
  • Dance: See dance styles below…

Dance Styles Often Combined With Dynamic Manipulation

These are dance styles frequently incorporated into dynamic manipulation routines:

  • Body Popping: The rapid pops of body popping, created by quickly tensing then releasing various muscle groups, perfectly fits different techniques of dynamic manipulation.
  • Waving: Waving involves the performer creating the illusion that an energy wave is coursing through their body. Its fluidity makes integrating it within dynamic manipulation routines very effective.
  • Floating: Floating, where the performer alternates their weight from toe to heel to create the illusion they are floating across the floor, can be incredibly striking when used in conjunction with one ball tech or isolationism. Imagine a moonwalk incorporating dynamic manipulation.

A Creative Collection of Dynamic Manipulation Videos

The old adage “seeing is believing” certainly holds true for the art of dynamic manipulation. Here are 5 excellent examples. Perhaps you’ll feel the urge to give it a go yourself?

A Talented Japanese Street Performerhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtztrcGkCBw&feature=related

Practice has made this excellent dynamic manipulator close to perfect. He clearly deserves applause and money to support him in developing his art.

Masaki: Smooth Manipulatorhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPkxWqLgZ0Y&feature=related

Having developed an exciting modern act, crystal performer Masaki can truly be described as a magician within dynamic manipulation.

The Captivating Choreography of Kelvin Kalvushttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=di07QKwZQlI&feature=related

German contact juggler Kelvin Kalvus has created incredibly impressive routines, which are choreographed to perfection.

The Master: Michael Moschenhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FX7xruR12YA and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZ9F45jMdhQ&feature=related

Michael Moschen, the originator of dynamic manipulation as it is known today, astonishes in these videos, which demonstrate his true mastery of the art.

Thanks to the team at Ladbrokes Bingo for this interesting insight!

Mars Cureg

Web designer by profession, photography hobbyist, T-shirt lover, design blog founder, gamer. Socially and physically awkward, lack of social skills, struggles to communicate with anyone who doesn't have a keyboard. Willing to walk to get to the promised land. Photo and video freelancer, SEO. Check out more on my Google+

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