Founded in 1998, Trinity’s Juggling and Circus Society are probably best known on campus for their juggling displays during Freshers’ Week, or their awe-inspiring fire shows which have been performed as part of Fourth Week, Diwali and Trinity Arts Festival in previous years.
Although it is sometimes known as Jugglers, the society’s activities cover a wide range of different skills. According to its treasurer James Hennigan, “Juggling is one of the more popular ones”, but acrobatics and, more recently, pole dancing have become increasingly popular. Skills similar to juggling, such as diabolos and devil sticks, are also well represented. These involve using a diabolo, a prop similar to a yoyo, or long batons to perform various balancing tricks and tosses. People also practice “flow arts” such as poi, staff spinning, contact juggling and hula hoops; practices which involve a combination of movement, balance, object manipulation and juggling. Members of the society regularly learn from each other: “Everyone who comes to our society is willing to teach the things they know. For example, if you come along and see a person riding a unicycle, or see a group of partner acrobats in some cool position, you can always go over to them and ask if they’ll show you how to do it.”
The society meets every Tuesday night from 7-9.30pm in Goldsmith Hall. Though it may seem like an unlikely venue for a circus, is an ideal practice area due to its high ceiling and open space. “There’s always a great atmosphere; people come to our society to have fun,” says Hennigan. On Tuesday evenings, Goldsmith is usually “full of friendly people, music, and amazing skills”.
One of the society’s main functions is to make equipment and props available to its members. The range of items in their inventory reflects the impressive variety of skills that the society practices. In their storeroom by Goldsmith Hall, they keep hundreds of props, including juggling balls, clubs, diabolos and hula hoops. They also have mats for practicing partner acrobatics, a pole for pole dancing and a slackline which can be set up in the lecture theatre.
“Some of the best jugglers in the country are Trinity students.”
There is an active juggling and circus skills community both in Irish colleges and internationally, with similar societies in UCD, DCU, DKIT, NUIG, and Queen’s: “Circus skills provide a fun, healthy and relaxing way to take a break from studying, so it’s no surprise that most people in the community joined when they were students!”
In Trinity, juggling is rarely so high-stakes; its members are “mostly coming to have fun and relax” after a day at college. However, the society still has no shortage of talent: “Some of the best jugglers in the country are Trinity students. The country’s best club juggler (clubs are those props that look like bowling pins) comes every week! One of our members also used to hold the Irish record for seven ball juggling, but that was beaten by someone in another university recently.”
Trinity Juggling and Circus Society is very open to new members. They provide all the equipment so you can get involved even if you don’t have your own props. Likewise, they possess a wealth of knowledge which is shared readily with new members. “The majority of our members hadn’t practiced any circus skills the first time they came to one of our sessions,” says Hennigan. “Everyone is willing to help newcomers because (a) we like to see the community growing, and (b) we all learned because somebody else was willing to help us on our first day!”
Most of the committee only got into juggling and circus skills while in college, including the current chairperson, Carolyn: “I went to a circus open mic night before I came to college, which got me interested in the world of juggling and performance. I joined the society in first year with some friends, and suddenly found myself trying and learning loads of new skills. I even learned how to hula hoop, which I had never managed before. I’ve been around since then, including since starting my PhD, and this is now my 6th year in the society!” The secretary Gráinne had a similar experience: “I went once just to see what it was like, and had such a good time that I just kept coming back…I could juggle a little before coming, but now I can do a bit of most things!”
All you have to do to get involved is come along on a Tuesday night. According to Hennigan, “most people are surprised by how much fun they have when they join. Almost none of our members thought they would join a circus society before they attended college. It’s just something that people randomly come across, and quickly become involved in once they see how enjoyable it is, and how friendly the community is!”