Jugging and Magic Interview w/Nathan Biggs-Penton

A “Sleight-of-Hand” is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as a “dexterous trick or feat; a piece of nimble juggling or conjuring.” So, I was immediately intrigued when I saw that juggler and circus artist Nathan Biggs-Penton released the first of three club juggling videos with that title. Clicking on the next image in this post will take you to the youtube account of its supporter TurboFest where you can watch all four minutes of it.

Juggling, research and video : Nathan Biggs-penton in collaboration with Turbo 418 /
Images : Cami Lapage Acosta / Music : Dog Head (https://thedoghead.bandcamp.com/album…)

Magic is a language. Sleight-of-hand is one of its dialects. What I love about this virtual number made during lockdown is how the micro-movement it focuses on is inspired by the physical vocabulary of magic as a performing art. Biggs-Penton manipulates two clubs effortlessly with his fingers, hands and wrists staying loosely in contact with them. There are some excellent toss juggling accents when clubs leave the body to be switched or trapped, but they’re so subtle and smooth that we almost don’t feel them. The emphasis remains on the hypnotic swinging of the clubs that is so light and open-handed that it often seems they manipulate themselves. This effect is particularly strong during sequences like the one from minute 2:20 to 2:25 when the juggler looks away and the objects carry on.

Jugglers and magicians are all object manipulators. And though its true that during the last 150 years or so the definitions of the word “juggler” and the word “magician” have become more compartmentalized and discipline-specific, it will surprise most to learn that from 1100 to 1857 in the English language “juggling” was defined as “the practice of trickery or deception.” For 757 years the name was shared and the connection remains. Look no further than the hand movements of Slydini manipulating two cigarettes (instead of two clubs) to some equally smooth jazz:

The takeaway, I hope, is that the aesthetics of close-up magic can be applied to other props and circus disciplines in an artistically meaningful way without making those props vanish, appear, transform and so forth. Though it’s great when that happens too.

Videos number two and three of Nathan Biggs-Penton’s series are also available on the TurboFest Facebook page . I hope that you’ll enjoy them as much as I do. (A few more links mentioned in the interview are posted below . . .


Acting for Climate

“Paysages dynamiques” collective performance

Incredible Flying Objects in Winchester Virginia

Jay Gilligan’s juggling research

“Nightingale” by John Witte

A magical juggling act by Yann Frisch

L’École de Cirque de Québec

FISM – the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques 

The Magic Play teaser

In & Of Itself by Derek Delgaudio and Frank Oz

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