Evoking the ‘fragility of human existence’ through juggling

Counter to traditional vaudeville, a Walker Art Center juggling show championed mistakes, flaws.

“UNTITLED_I will be there when you die,” had its Midwest premier on Friday and Saturday night at the Walker Art Center.

Photographer:Alfredo Anceschi

“UNTITLED_I will be there when you die,” had its Midwest premier on Friday and Saturday night at the Walker Art Center.

Gunthar Reising

In the hulking silence before the act began, a stern man told a girl to shut off her phone. The more awkward patrons giggled in the quiet.

Stage lights revealed four men dressed in simple attire. The only noise for the next five minutes came from a single juggling pin slapping the palm of a man’s hand upon landing. The performance, needless to say, seemed to be made for the Walker.

The show, “UNTITLED_I will be there when you die,” had its Midwest premier on Friday and Saturday night. Choreographer Alessandro Sciarroni, four jugglers and a DJ joined forces for an hour-long meditation, endurance test and dance recital.

“It was mesmerizing,” attendee and University of Minnesota alumni, Nel Rukavina, said. “It looked like they had three arms.”

According to the Walker’s pamphlet, the show was aimed to “evoke the fragility of human existence.”

The focus was on those performing rather than the act itself. The jugglers’ expressions, relationships and failures were readily apparent to the audience.

The act began with infantile simplicity as each juggler repeatedly tossed a single pin. The jugglers slowly progressed to two, then three pins.

The first time a pin was dropped seemed planned — like some sort of intentional commentary on failure.

However, as the act transitioned into a kaleidoscopic dance with 16 pins hanging in the air and the jugglers damp with sweat, the dropped pins no longer seem contrived.

After the show, juggler Victor Garmendia Torija confirmed that all the drops were accidents.

When asked what he wanted the audience to take away from the show, Torija answered, “accepting that we are not perfect.”

The show was not developed purely for awe — there was a presence of raw endurance not typical of juggling’s vaudeville ancestry.

After an hour of complex and rigorous movements and patterns, it was clear that the “show” was now also a sporting event. Mistakes, recovery and pushing the human limit were necessary for the entertainment.

Smiles were big — no stage faces necessary. It was clear the show was still exciting for the performers.

“I love the communication that we have. I love the energy of working with five others,” the show’s music composer and DJ Pablo Esbert Lilienfeld said.

The show ended with the four performers weaving in and out in a human juggle as they passed 16 pins through conflicting trajectories.

They hardly missed a beat.