The view from the juggling school
Why do people do what they do? The Renaissance Festival is the reason we were introduced to RSCDS Scottish dance, and now has become the origin of our other strange hobbies, including juggling and Morris dancing.
Dancing with RSCDS at the Renfest naturally led to friendships and connections with other performers and exposure to their wild and crazy interests and talents. Then the pandemic hit, and we gravitated towards trying these new things to pass the time while all events were cancelled. When it was announced that the RenFest would be going forward in 2021, there was scrambling to fill in positions vacated by those who weren’t ready to come back into crowds. RSCDS was able to gather enough dancers to perform about half of the scheduled weekends, but the juggling school was closed due to lack of teachers. We agreed to staff the juggling school – mostly as a favor to a Renfest friend – but also as a lark and something enjoyable enjoyable and different to do. Renfest management was willing to accommodate multiple breaks during the days RSCDS and Morris were dancing so, that we could do both, which gives us a unique perspective on RSCDS from both inside the group and as seen from outside.
The Bear Stage where RSCDS performs is about half-visible from the juggling school. While the crowds are always moving, moving, moving and there is nearly constant one-to-one interaction with patrons at the juggling school, the Scots are seen on the stage as more of an upraised visual interest rather than a teaching group or a performance to sit and watch. The bagpipes can be distantly heard from the juggling booth, and while the stage can’t be seen clearly from there, one can catch the swirl of colorful arisaids and hear the snappy dance tunes and know there is something interesting and fun going on.
The Morris dancers are viewed similarly, but there tends to be more variation, lack of rules, and humor. The Morris team thinks the Scots are more elegant and precise, perhaps even over-prepared and over-rehearsed, while Morris doesn’t even know what they are dancing until they get up on stage, which adds an element of silliness, perhaps outlandishness. Members of both groups have expressed wanting more interaction between Morris & RSCDS, such as banter on stage, playful commentary about the other group, chasing off the stage, etc. It would lead to more fun and camaraderie between groups and better entertainment for the audience. It would also be appreciated by Fest management since it adds an additional element of story and leads to a better flow between performances.
We’d be remiss by closing without relaying an anecdote from this Renfest season. At the end of a full day of dancing and juggling at Renfest, while at closing gate seeing patrons out, a young boy (probably 8 years old) comes up to get in a last few minutes’ attempt at juggling. He’s super dirty and wearing only one flip-flop. I ask, “Where’s your shoe??” He states matter-of-factly, “Elephant ate it,” and just keeps on playing. Yeah, right, kid. But his mom is standing right there and it seemed like such a weird thing to make up in front of one’s parent, so we ask her if that was true. She confirmed – he was on the elephant rides and one of his flip-flops fell off. Before the elephant handler could grab it, the elephant snatched it up with this trunk and ate it in one fell swoop. He was absolutely delighted; his mom not so much. They are now lacking a shoe, but gained a good story as a result. Perhaps it’s ridiculous moments such as these that keep us coming back to work and perform at the Renfest at every opportunity.
—Tiffany & Jason