November 08, 2000


Students in Waynesboro have found a way to get their talents off the ground

By MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

There's a rhythm at Waynesboro Area Senior High School that can be seen more than heard.


White clubs shaped like bowling pins fly from one teen's hands into the hands of another. Neon green rings fly up in the air, the swift motion creating a colorful blur.

The quiet concentration is occasionally broken by the thud of a small bean-bag ball hitting the ground.

It's after school on a recent Wednesday and the juggling club is in motion.

Seniors Eric Parks and Kevin Bowie had been juggling together for 3 1/2 years before approaching art teacher Tom McFarland last year about forming a club.


"We kept practicing to see who could improve faster," said Eric, 17.

They used to practice two or three hours a day, starting with balls. Now they can juggle all sorts of things, including torches and knives, sometimes while riding unicycles.

"That just comes with time," Eric said.

Various skill levels are on display among the 16 students gathered around the school's auditorium. In grades nine through 12, some of the members attend the Waynesboro school and others are home-schooled.

Some are clustered by a wall trying to get three squishy balls moving smoothly in their hands. The newest members are trying to establish a rhythm with two balls. On the stage, Aden Williamson, 18, a home-school graduate who started juggling with Eric and Kevin, effortlessly keeps five rings moving upward.

"Juggling is about patience," said McFarland, one of the club's advisers. Math teacher Roger Martin also advises the group.

"When you're learning, you have to focus and concentrate," said Eric, who along with the other experienced jugglers helps teach the beginners. "I can't make them learn. They have to practice."

"It annoys me that I can't do it," said junior Sarah Peters, 17, who has been with the group from the start.

She knows the basic concept; it's just hard to put it into motion.

"You're not supposed to concentrate on your hands at all," said Sarah, demonstrating her technique.

Stephanie Bender, 17, also a junior, joined the club the middle of last year.

"I can juggle oranges at home," Bender said, though dropped ones make the floor a little messy.

While the beginners work on the basics, Eric and Kevin push themselves to try something new and more complicated. They rely on videos and books to build skills. They get the tools of their trade over the Internet and at juggling conventions.

Kevin is trying to master juggling nine balls. And he and Eric are trying to increase the number of clubs they can pass to each other.

"We've passed eight, not very well," Eric said.

Eric, who seems to be part octopus and part seal, balances objects on his nose, including chairs. He also does contact juggling, making a ball move as though it's weightless, never losing contact with his hands.

"I do all kinds of weird things," Eric said.

The club has performed at Renfrew Institute for Cultural and Environmental Studies in Waynesboro and is looking for other opportunities to exhibit their talents, maybe during halftime at athletic events, McFarland said.

"I want to do shows with everyone," said Kevin, 17, explaining that he would like all the members to show off their skills in front of a crowd.

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