UR’s juggling club, Strong Jugglers, held their 11th Annual Fire Show this past Friday night during Meliora Weekend. I sat down with the club’s co-president, junior Regan Collins, the night before to learn more about the club and how they prepared for this event.
The Strong Jugglers were formed back in 1995 and often went to Strong Hospital to juggle for children staying there and teach them some tricks. The Jugglers haven’t been to the hospital in recent years due to COVID-19, but Regan hopes they can return once regulations are loosened.
She first joined the club in her first year after watching their fire juggling event at Party on the Quad and then later practicing on Wilson Quad where she was recruited by the then-president. Regan had no previous juggling experience, which she says is very common among new members.
Due to the pandemic, the Jugglers haven’t had many opportunities to perform events or practice together. They’ve had to spend a lot of time practicing for their Meliora Weekend event the past month and as Regan said, “There’s definitely a learning curve. It’ll take you a hot second to get back into it. No pun intended.”
When asked about her own personal experience juggling with dangerous elements, Regan remarked, “Fire was definitely a much bigger mental block for me. My initial reaction was to lean away from the fire. But once you get past the mental block, you can form a rhythm, and it gets easier. You do always have to be careful and be conscious of the fact that you’re juggling knives and fire.”
She told me that the most dangerous part of the torch is not the fire itself but rather the metal rod connecting the rubber handle to the wick because it gets very hot. It’s risky when juggling fire in the dark because you can get blinded by the fire and can’t see the handle.
In response to her thoughts about the upcoming performance, Regan said that she’s excited, especially since a lot of their alums are coming back, but is also a little nervous since this is their first big performance since COVID-19 hit. “We have a lot of really talented people in the club who work really hard to learn new tricks. They’re all really dedicated,” she said.
The performance itself began shortly after 8:00 p.m. on the steps in front of the clock tower. At first, the speaker wouldn’t work, so the juggling began without their soundtrack, but it didn’t take long for the problem to be fixed and a fire-themed playlist to start up. Hits included the aptly named “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and “Girl on Fire.”
Along with the fire-related bops were a whole range of fire-related props, including the standard torches, two fireballs on chains, and a hula hoop. There were also some light-up balls, rings, hula hoops, and long batons. Bright yellow caution tape kept the audience at a (relatively) safe distance, although there were a few close calls with some dropped torches. While jugglers often started off by dropping some torches (better than catching the wrong end!), you could tell when they got into a rhythm.
The jugglers were cheered on by the crowd and most notably by a person working the snack stand on the plaza behind them, who yelled out encouraging statements, such as “You got this sis!” “Yes ma’am!” and even “I’m gonna marry this man!” while slamming the table in applause.
My favorite props were definitely the fire hula hoop, a prop Regan said once caught her hair on fire, and the swinging fire balls on chains. These made for very fun photos when using a slow shutter speed to create long streaks of fire. I was especially impressed when two or three jugglers would attempt to juggle the torches with each other. That’s some serious team trust!
Compared to the props with fire, the LED props didn’t have the same “wow” factor, but they were a good way to break up the performance and also provided some fun photo opportunities. Moreover, the LED juggling showcased the extent of the jugglers’ technical skill, as a plethora of tricks were performed, and the props were dropped far less often than the fire.
I followed up with Regan after the event, and she told me that she thought the event went “very well!” and “according to the alums present, that was the largest and most sustained crowd in their memory!” She said, “Most people just stop by for a few minutes, but we kept a lot of people the entire time.
“I’m super proud of everyone who got up to perform.”