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Balls in the Air—Jugglers Converge on Reed

By Laura Dallago ’18 on October 18, 2016 09:14 AM

A focused performer gives the pins a spin at the Portland Juggling Festival Adam Brewer

It’s the ultimate balancing act. Poised ever-so-precisely on an overgrown skateboard that wobbles atop a rolling cylinder, Cate Great draws ooohs from the audience when she crowns her act with an eye-popping stunt—juggling no fewer than six balls while spinning in a circle.

Welcome to the 26th Portland Juggling Festival, a weekend of workshops, live shows, and community-building held at Reed College. Jugglers from around the world flock to the event, whose mission is not only entertainment but also education.

Since 1992, when the festival was founded, the highlight of each year is the Juggling and Vaudeville Extravaganza Show, featuring local professionals alongside national and international acts. Twelve acts graced the stage last week, with Anni Küpper from Bonn, Germany, bringing down the house with a dazzling performance art/juggling fusion.

Reed’s juggling tradition has long roots. In 1979, math professors Joe Roberts and Joe Buhler ’72 started a juggling class for PE and opened it to the public. To this day, Reed opens the lower gym of the Sports Center every Wednesday evening for students and Portlanders alike to practice this venerable form of performance art.

“We have really contributed to developing a strong and vibrant juggling and circus arts community in Portland,” shares festival founder Stuart Celarier ’83, who got his start in that PE class.

Each year the festival bestows the Ben Linder Memorial Award to the most inspirational juggler. Linder, a Portland juggler, was building a hydroelectric project in Nicaragua when he was tragically killed by US-funded Contra rebels in 1987. Linden often combined his circus skills with humanitarian service to draw kids to clinics and raise awareness of social issues. This year the award went out to Cate Great for what Celarier calls her “astounding juggling and acrobatic act" on the balancing board.