||This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (December 2010)|
Contact juggling is a form of object manipulation that focuses on the movement of objects such as balls in contact with the body. Although often used in conjunction with "toss juggling", it differs in that it involves the rolling of one or more objects without releasing them into the air. It is divided into three main techniques:
Many of the techniques found in contact juggling, such as balancing or rolling a single ball or palm spinning (see "Baoding Balls"), have been performed for centuries. More variations were introduced by vaudevillians such as Paul Cinquevalli. In 1986, American juggler Tony Duncan was reported to be holding audiences spellbound with an act that involved rolling a single ball all over his body.
Michael Moschen brought the form to a new level with his performance, "Light," developed in the 1980s. In this performance he used 75mm clear crystal balls, palm spinning up to eight balls simultaneously. He finished the act by rolling a single clear ball so that it appeared to float over his hands and arms. Moschen received high regard from the international circus community for his range of innovative new techniques, and he was made a MacArthur Fellow (received a "Genius Award") in 1990. In the 1986 film, Labyrinth, David Bowie's character performs contact juggling throughout the film. These manipulations were performed by Moschen, who stood behind Bowie during filming, reaching around and performing the tricks "blind." In the film's credits, Moschen is credited for "crystal ball manipulation."
In the summer of 1990, John P. Miller (now better known by his pen-name, James Ernest), wrote and published the first edition of the book Contact Juggling, which covers all of the basic contact juggling techniques and methods for learning them. The first edition had a run of only 100 copies, photocopied and stapled. The second edition was published in 1991, in a comb-bound format, by Ernest Graphics Press, with the author listed as James Ernest. Ernest is credited with coining the term "contact juggling."
In 1991, the video "Michael Moschen: In Motion" (created as the television special "In Motion with Michael Moschen" for PBS's "Great Performances" series) was released. Since then, this form of juggling has received further popularization through instructional materials and performances developed by jugglers other than Moschen. Throughout the 1990s, there was continuing contention within the juggling community regarding whether Moschen's ideas were being stolen by performers and juggling instructors (see "Controversy", below). Since, many resources have become available for contact jugglers, such as clubs, books, festivals, videos/DVDs, and balls specifically manufactured for contact juggling.
In 2010, Zoom TV, a direct-marketing company, began mass-marketing "the Fushigi Magic Gravity Ball," an acrylic contact juggling ball with a steel core (used to prevent the focusing of sunlight through a clear acrylic sphere, a fire hazard). Zoom TV claimed that the ball possesses special properties that make it "appear to float" and improve balance and control  (see "Controversy", below), and saw significant commercial success.
In 2010, an updated and revised third edition of the book Contact Juggling was released by Ernest Graphics Press.
The online presence of contact juggling began with a Yahoo! discussion group in late 1999 and later formed into www.contactjuggling.org which serves the English speaking community with tutorials, forums, and videos. Since then, other international contact juggling forums have served jugglers in Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, German, and French.
In September 2001, the first contact juggling convention (CJC) was held in Florida, USA. Two of the attendees were British contact jugglers Daniel Kerr and Andy Wilson, who then organized the first contact juggling convention in Europe (BCJC). It was held in Scotland in 2003, and included a public performance to allow the general public to learn about contact juggling. Since then, contact juggling conventions have been held in various countries around the world, as well as contact juggling workshops being taught juggling festivals and circus schools.
Some[who?] have claimed that portions of the book Contact Juggling and any juggling performances that contain elements similar to Michael Moschen's original "Light" performance are breaches of Moschen's intellectual property or copyright. In 1992, Michael Moschen threatened not to attend the International Juggler's Association annual conference in Quebec, Canada, where he was to be a guest of honor, due to a favorable review of the book Contact Juggling in the Fall 1991 issue of the IJA's periodical, Juggler's World. In the end, Moschen did attend the festival.
The wide commercial success of the "Fushigi Magic Gravity Ball" in 2010 reignited the controversy within the contact juggling community. The television advertisement consisted of a montage of contact juggling performance, the amazed reactions of audience members suggesting the ball appeared to float by itself, and an announcer suggesting that the ball can be quickly mastered "in just minutes." Concerned about the public depiction of contact juggling being accomplished not by skill but by means of a special prop, contact jugglers quickly filled a Fushigi thread to 100 pages on contactjuggling.org. The Winter 2010 edition of the IJA's periodical Juggle features a 4-page article about "the Dynamic/Contact/Sphereplay/Fushigi Controversy" by Brad Weston, including an interview with John Cammarano (the president of Zoom TV, the direct marketing firm producing the Fushigi ball).  The following issue featured a rebuttal by a professional contact juggler accusing Cammarano of exploiting contact juggling to sell a deceptively marketed product.