Up in the Air

Presuming the spring weather remains beautiful, Tucson's jugglers will have only gravity to battle this weekend at the third annual Tucson Juggling Festival.

The three-day event will start noon, Friday, April 8, and will continue through Sunday, April 10, concluding with a variety show showcasing some of Tucson's best jugglers, acrobats, contortionists and hula-hoop troupes.

Variety and diversity are key themes for the festival, as organizers are excited to share their passions.

According to Becky Renfrow of the WonderFools—a Tucson juggling-clowning duo—the weekend will feature a "mix of quality entertainment that will be nearly unparalleled."

"This is a wonderful way to introduce a large chunk of the community to our unique skills and passions," Renfrow said. "Many shows have taken place in big, fancy theaters, but we are taking advantage of the beautiful weather, and this has become a great opportunity to make everything more accessible to a larger part of the community—since it is, after all, free."

Renfrow admits that juggling is somewhat addictive, not only because it is fun, but also because members of the performing community are friendly, and the activity has been linked to mental benefits.

"Juggling has been studied by many neurologists," Renfrow said, "and as you learn to juggle, you can actually 'grow' your brain, as the act has an influence in our brain's gray matter."

As for that friendly community, Renfrow explained that the juggling/performing world includes many intelligent and creative individuals—and the fact that they are so dedicated to fun separates these individuals from their peers.

"We are all kinds of people, really," she said. "We will showcase many different levels of skills, fancy balancing experts, and even hula-hoop troupes with some really rad skills and illusionists. ... We even have some incredible contortionists coming who always surprise people."

Renfrow said she believes these types of live performance hold a certain prestige, and are able to captivate audiences more deeply than more passive entertainments such as TV or movies.

"In part, this stuff is just plain fun, but I love the teaching aspect," she said. "Someone can see a trick or element that appears impossible at first, but with some practice and a little instruction, people can learn to do it: They can achieve the 'impossible.' I think we all need to learn to do impossible things. That feeling can help make the world be a better place."

Renfrow said she's excited to show off her passions with younger audiences in this outdoor, family setting.

"All of the performers are really excited to share their art—especially with the kids," she said. "You are never too old to learn any of these tricks, but younger audiences always respond well."

Beyond the entertainment aspect of the performance, Renfrow believes juggling holds a great lesson for anyone willing to give it a go.

"Gravity is always going to be there," she said, "so this is incredible practice in perseverance: If you drop it, you have to be able to pick it up and try again. You can't let the fear of failing or dropping stop you from learning."

The festival will also include Tucson's Flight School Acrobatics, aka Bob and Trish Evans; fooling comedy acts; music; and more.

"This is ultimately a culmination of many skills," Renfrow said. "We've heard from, and are looking forward to, many out-of-towners in attendance as well. This is just such a unique chance, for free, to witness a very wide variety all at once."

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