A student on the BTEC at Circomedia contacted me the other day asking if I would answering 10 questions for an interview. I thought I'd release them and my answers as this weeks blog post. Yes I know, it's a bit of a cop out, but hey, it's my blog post, my rules.
1. How long have you been juggling and how did you get into it?
I started learning diabolo when I was 6 years old (22 years ago!) because my brother and next door neighbours did it. As kids, we always had to be doing something. My mum used to say “boring people get bored”, so we had to keep ourselves busy with toys and games (we were never allowed computer games). We also used to watch a guy on the beach do shows with magic, juggling and diabolo. His name was the Great Bodgit. I got really into diabolo, and I wanted to get a really good one, so I found out about this catalogue called Butterfingers. When it arrived it contained loads of pictures of diabolos, but also spinning plates, yo-yos, stilts, balls, rings, clubs and everything else juggling related. So I started learning all of this stuff, but it wasn't until I was 10 years old that I started juggling.
2. How did you learn most of your skills? eg. Circus school, juggling groups etc.
I was self taught from a young age. I developed a good eye for seeing somebody doing something, and then just going away and learning it. I was like a juggling trick sponge. I loved juggling (and still do) more than anything else. My passion for juggling let me to meet a huge variety of people in the business who have given me tips and tricks along the way. I have always been into learning by doing, so I never went down the circus school route. However, a part of me still thinks about doing it from time to time.
3. How long do you probably practice a day?
If I am not performing or teaching, I tend to practice 2-4 hours a day. If I am doing a show, I may only do a gentle hour to get myself ready for the show, but still conserving energy.
4. Do you have a favourite type of prop and do you feel like different props lend themselves to different types of acts?
Not really. I mainly only practice balls, rings and clubs. I go in and out of phases as to which one of these is my favourite. I am really enjoying balls at the moment for 5 balls tricks and 7 ball runs. I am enjoying rings for 5 ring pancakes and 7 and 8 rings. But then I’m really enjoying clubs for 3 club body throws and 5 club backcrosses. I’m quite into all of them for different reasons.
5. How do you come up with acts? Eg. Starting with tricks/ character/ theme/ music?
This is a strange question. The honest answer is from my brain. But I get inspiration from life events, music, art, comedy, imagery, poetry, anything really! When I have an idea for a routine, it often starts as just a scribble on a piece of paper, and then it goes through a sort of evolutionary machine. It gets tugged and pulled in a variety of different directions until it works, or in some cases doesn’t work. For example, I had an idea for doing a bounce juggling routine with sports reaction balls (balls that bounce at an unpredictable angle, so to test the athletes reactions). So I went away and bought some and started experimenting. I soon realised that juggling three of these against the floor was impossible. So now I am at a stage where I am trying to make it work another way. Maybe 1 sports reaction ball and two other balls. I’m not sure yet. Another example would be with some small toys called poppers (they are small objects that are like a tennis ball, cut in half. Then you turn them inside out and put them on a surface and wait for them to pop up). I did a small routine with the poppers in my latest show “Jon Udry Punches Gravity in the Face”. It was fine. It wasn’t great, but it was fine. I am convinced that there is something brilliant to do with these poppers, but I haven’t yet found what it is. But the search remains! That’s all part of the fun.
6. How do you normally get gigs/ work? Do you have to actively promote what you do all the time?
I try and promote myself all of the time by using social media. Through Facebook www.facebook.com/jonudry, Twitter @jonudry, and Instagram @jonudry (look at me go, I’m relentless). When I started, I would always call entertainment agencies and tell them about myself, then I would send my promotional material through. I would then put their names and details into a spreadsheet, and make a note when to contact them again with new information, or whether they have put me on their website or not. If not, I would call again in a few weeks just to check in. Spread sheets are key.
7. I've heard you worked with Gandini. How did you get into that and how was the experience?
Yes, I have. I started working with Gandini Juggling 10 years ago. I have been involved in a number of there shows such as The Big Water Juggle, Sweet Life, Smashed, The Cube, Blotched, Night Clubs, 20/20, Clowns and Queens, and a variety of corporate gigs. i met Sean Gandini at a juggling convention when I was about 16 I think (he will tell you a different story!), so we both kind of knew of each other. I got a phone call when I was 18 asking if I wanted to be part of a Gandini show in London called the Big Water Juggle. I was very keen to do this, and it just kind of went from there.
8. How does working in a group like Gandini compare to doing your solo acts? Do you prefer one over the other?
It’s tricky. Whenever I am doing lots of group work, I often prefer the solo work, and vice versa! I love the solo work because everything is done my way and I can be very stubborn with the way my work should be done. But traveling and working solo can be very lonely. Working in groups such as Gandini Juggling and Circus Geeks is always a lot of fun, and it’s nice to have people there to hang out with.
9. How do you deal with drops in your acts?
I cannot answer this one without writing a short novel. In a nutshell, many many different ways. But the key is to always remain relaxed and to make the audience feel comfortable.
10. Do you still enjoy juggling for the sake of it or is it just work now?
I love it. I practice most days when I can. I have 2 types of practice; I practice things that are in my show or maybe one day will be in my show, but I also like to practice things that have no intention of ever being in my show. If I haven’t juggled for a few days, I get very agitated and need to get a practice in. To quote comedy juggler Pete Matthews “juggling is my yoga”. This rings very true with me. I juggle not only for fun, but I know that it makes me a better person as I am more relaxed and less stressed if I have had a little juggling session.