Greg Kennedy doesn’t remember a time when he couldn’t juggle.
“A lot of people think of juggling as throwing and catching,” says Kennedy, who has made a career our of his innovative juggling techniques. “I view it differently.”
Rather than tossing and catching, Kennedy sees juggling as an exchange of more objects than you have hands passing through your hands. “That could be a ball rolled on a surface or bounced on one of my sculptures or even swinging the physical pendulum in different ways,” he says.
It wasn’t until his high school and college years that Kennedy started training more seriously as a juggler — and it wasn’t until his early twenties that he first worked on an original trick, blending his juggling skills with his background in engineering.
The trick involves eight balls rolling in a clear half sphere. Instead of throwing and catching the balls in the air, the idea was to use the the surface in different ways. The end result was the balls moving around the curved space in beautiful patterns. He worked on the trick almost obsessively for 18 months before performing it in the Intrnational Juggler’s Association Championship in 1996. He won gold.
While he worked as an engineer, he developed a following in the juggling community; some of the following developed from his championship win and others from evening shows in Atlantic City or at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
In February 1997, a friend offered Kennedy a three-and-a-half-month position working as a juggler in Japan. He took a leave of absence from his job — and never went back.
Kennedy worked on his performance and his tricks and eventually was brought on to take part in the Cirque du Soleil show Totem. He worked on the show for five years, touring with his wife and kids. After more than 1,600 shows with the organization, Kennedy left in 2015.
But his act remained. Cirque du Soleil liked the act so much that Kennedy trained a young friend to do the performance, and he still gets a monthly royalty cheque for the show.
He says the development of the tricks — which involve sculptures, pendulums, curved tracks, and more props he designs himself — is his favourite part of his work.
About a month ago, Kennedy released his newest trick, which involves rolling large balls around his body, in a manner similar to palm rolling. The balls are 10 inches in diameter, so rather than use just his hands, his body is the surface he uses instead.
Another new piece involves curved tracks that stack up vertically. “So I can put balls [on the tracks], and they create wave propagation with [the tracks] moving balls up and down from one level to another.”
Kennedy has been developing his work for the last 20 years. “The development is the reason I do it. I really enjoy the creation process. I really enjoy sharing it with people when I perform, but it’s the actual creation of the pieces that drives me,” he says.
He will be in Quesnel this Sunday (April 14), performing his show Science, Engineering and Art: A Juggler’s Perspective.
“In my mind, science and art are one subject, they’re not two separate things.”
From Philadelphia, Kennedy is performing in schools around the Lower Mainland before he drives up to Quesnel this weekend. He says it will be his first time so far north in B.C., and he’s looking forward to the show.
The show will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Chuck Mobley Theatre at Correlieu Secondary School. Tickets are available at Bo Peep, Circle “S” Western Wear, the Quesnel and District Arts and Recreation Centre, the Visitor’s Centre and at the door.