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Star of Indiana

In 1987, I received a call from the director of The Star of Indiana, asking me if I would be interested in teaching circus skills to the corps color guard for their summer tour.

At the time, I didn't know anything about drum corps or DCI. (If you don't know anything about them either, you don't know what you are missing!) A DCI drum corps is an opportunity for someone age teen to 21 to spend their summer marching and playing music all over the US. There are many corps in the country, with the small groups having a few dozen kids traveling in an old school bus, to ensembles of 128 touring in sublime touring busses. It is an entire subculture of musicians and athletes that traipse around having competitions and demonstrations in athletic arenas. When they compete, is it football, or soccer? No, they play music and march about the field. But, don't tease them about it, because they take it very seriously. There are fans and groupies. It's kinda like marching band meets the Grateful Dead.

I worked with the color guard of about a dozen girls to teach them to juggle. I was later asked to perform with the group, being handed a partner to do club passing and some two person exchanges. Now, I've worked with many other juggling partners of various skill levels before, but never have I been given a partner who didn't even know how to juggle at all!

Denny Giles was a drummer. The director didn't need anymore people on the drum line, and since Denny had seniority, he was asked if he would like to juggle instead. It sounded like a cool idea to him, so they assigned him to me, gave me three months, and told me to make them an act that was going to be nationally televised by the end of the summer. Wow. I insisted that it took years of training to be a competent juggler and that it was even more difficult to work under the sever lights and winds of the outdoor football fields. But, I got the "we have the utmost confidence in your abilities. Don't let us down!" speech, and away we went.

When in the groove, I used to spend countless hours back to back practicing juggling. But, I have never seen anyone tackle the task of learning juggling with such a fervor as Denny did for those short months. That guy was tossing something from hand to hand every waking moment. I wasn't just impressed, I was blown away!

Come show time, I had a partner. Not just a "We'll make him look like a juggler", but a real partner! In three short months, Denny had developed a good club technique and we were able to do passing patterns with six and seven clubs while the other members of the corps came running through. We did thirty or forty shows all over the US that summer. At the time, The Star of Indiana was a new corps, but in spite of that, we were still taking top honors from the judges. It's quite a rush to be doing the act and catch a glimpse of yourself on a giant screen TV that is suspended above the field!

For the finals in Madison at the end of the summer, we had a show with a circus theme that had a real circus juggling act embedded in it. Not a pretend act staged theatrically, but a real one that could stand on it's own. It was pretty spectacular working on the field with 120+ musicians marching around us as we tossed our balls and pins about. We would finish a trick, catch everything, and then count one-banana, two-banana, three-banana, before the applause would reach us. No fuss, no muss, no drops for 40,000 spectators in one show. Wow.


(I stumbled upon this copy of a write up of this show in Juggler's World on the net: Juggle Article!)