Dawn Monette thought she had learned all there was to know about juggling once she had read an instruction book and taught herself the basic three-ball cascade. Then a chance encounter with the Vancouver Juggling Club changed the course of her life.
“They started teaching me things immediately,” says Monette, who lived in Vancouver at the time. “I met a man and he told me to come to the Victoria Juggling Festival 2005. When I came here, my mind was blown. I had no idea juggling was so involved, that it had so much versatility, so many facets.”
When Monette attended the Victoria festival, run by the University of Victoria Juggling Club, she immediately decided to transfer from Capilano University to the University of Victoria. She would take on organizing the 2008, 2009 and 2013 festivals, the latter set to take the city this weekend.
Monette, better known to some as Dawn Dreams, sits at the club’s table, stacked high with hula hoops, clubs, balls, devil sticks and cigar boxes within the university’s Student Union Building during club days. She sports silver glitter around her eyes and smiles wide as she likens her experience at the 2005 event to Blind Melon’s music video for their 1992 song No Rain.
“The girl’s dancing on stage in a bumble bee costume and goes home and cries a whole lot,” Monette says. “At the end of the video, she opens the gates and there’s a field filled with bumble bee people just like her, dancing around and being silly. That’s the feeling I had when I arrived at that festival.”
Monette was enthralled watching contact juggling crystal balls, now a specialty of Dawn Dreams, along with her hoop work. This weekend Monette and co. host a variety of jugglers from across genres, with performances and workshops planned from Friday afternoon (Jan. 18), until Sunday at Central middle school, 1280 Fort St. The gala event, featuring Japanese breakdancing juggler Komei Aoki, among other international acts, is set for 8 p.m. Saturday at The Metro Theatre, 1411 Quadra St.
The festival also provides an opportunity for the club to show off their new moves, says Ava James, a member since 2001. James has been a juggler most of her life since first watching a performance on the Ed Sullivan Show when she was 10. All these years later, she’s still drawn to the beauty of the activity.
“There are so many combinations,” says James, whose ball, ring and devil stick work involves fewer back crosses than some of her younger counterparts. “It’s always possible to learn another trick, but it gets a lot harder when you get up toward your late-50s. You don’t have the same reflexes.”
Club president Patrick Conley joined the group after about three years of experience with the classic three-ball cascade. Since that time he’s added cigar box juggling to his repertoire, a skill more about catching than throwing and playing with the shape of a box, he explains. A graceful demo involving green, yellow and pink cigar boxes in flight back up his claim.
Though the club is a student-run organization, it is open to the community and welcomes new members.
“Anyone can pick up a ball and throw it in a creative and wonderful way and find a sense of satisfaction from that. We’re open to anybody. … How young, how old a person is, that’s not really of use to us, it’s just: ‘What can you show me? What can you create?’” Monette says. “Our community ranges from young to old, either gender, every walk of life in general and it’s as old as dirt.”
Tickets to the Victoria Juggling and Flow Fest range from $10 for the day to $35 for a weekend pass (including the gala event), with hefty student, senior and youth discounts. Visit web.uvic.ca/~juggling for tickets or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more club details.