What Was Contact?

I can hear you all asking it.

I lie wide awake at night, clutching a pillow over my ears but still I hear you asking “what is contact juggling?”

Please stop asking, I’ve got work in the morning.  But lets all get stuck in and try and unpick this, visually.  First of all I’m not going to get hung up on the name, I tend to call it contact, I don’t mind the term ‘contact juggling’, for comparing with other disciplines ‘ball contact’ and/or ‘contact ball’ are great. It’s fine, that’s another topic for another day because today we’re all going to care about definitions.

Let the low resolution videos commence!

We’ll start, if not with the contact ‘big bang’ then at least with contact evolving legs and crawling out of the sea. That’s right it’s Big Mickey Moschen:

What Michael Moschen did was pretty groundbreaking, yes there were existing techniques that he drew upon but he poured so much of himself into it, added so much of his own research and brought it all together into one place and basically defined the course of contact for decades afterwards.  There’s so much in these routines, and perhaps it can seem a little dated with 25 years of development past, but they still stand up as more than just historical artifacts.

Following the publication of James Ernest’s book Contact Juggling, this style was cemented as the foundations, but the style continued to evolve

Bruno Labouret is a great example of someone who took this classic Moschen style but went nuts with it, those seeds are still there but you can see the variation and personalisation shining through. What Moschen had laid down was being stretched and manipulated and beginning to become something quite different.

The dynamics of contact really began to shift as a new style gained popularity, placing the focus on the illusionary nature of contact. Isolation techniques from dance and mime got pushed to the front, stage balls were used as much as acrylics and the question of what contact is got even more debated. Modern London from Ryan Mellors was the first exposure lots of people had to this new minimal style.

I’ll draw this brief time-hop to a close with Okotanpe, this video was one of the first to go super viral for contact. There are many contactivists around whose first exposure was this video. But it ties together the illusion styles with the more classic earlier styles. We can see that as more people throw their creativity at contact, the definition begins to become wobbly.

Join us next time to see where this evolution has been taking us, and maybe even some videos with a higher resolution than 240p. Let us know which videos define contact for you over here


Feature photo: Michael Moschen. Photo by Lois Greenfield, 1983.