Brief overview

by Jean-Michel Guy

Considered in its broadest sense, object manipulation is as old as humanity itself. Restricted to the field of art and the exercise of an expert and rare skill, the notion can include the practice of musical instruments, puppetry, magic. In the juggling field, it is defined as a game with gravity, like all circus arts. It presupposes that nothing must be hidden from the viewer's view, unlike magic. Finally, it is characterised by the non-regularity of the movements it is likely to carry out, unlike juggling, which is periodic.
Paul Cinquevalli is considered to be the founder of this branch of juggling at the end of the 19th century, but the name of his 1920s successor, Enrico Rastelli, still described as the greatest juggler of all time, is more readily revered.

Nowadays, this notion is being challenged, and its borders with magic are once again tending to blur or be pushed back towards dramaturgy or psychological manipulation. In addition, after becoming increasingly more established during the 20th century around certain standard objects such as the diabolo, the acrylic ball or the bilboquet, manipulation is returning to the very old tradition of handling any type of object: toys, tools and everyday utensils. It even shifts the notion of object to the concept of matter: egg yolks, clay, wind…
Depending on the movement of the hands and the possible presence of a tool-object, it offers several variations. Ballistic manipulation involves a throw, as is the case with the boomerang. The balance prohibits the release while the graphic manipulation seeks the drawing of shapes in space. The diabolical manipulation, on the other hand, uses diabolos or devil sticks, and the game of skill of hand-held objects, a Yo-Yo for example. Contact juggling, which consists in keeping an object in balance and moving it around the body, is a recent invention by juggler Michael Moschen.
New materials, dissemination of innovations via the Internet, recognition of juggling as an art, increase in the number of jugglers: the manipulation is in full swing and in constant renewal.