It’s no secret that becoming the best Denver entertainer is one of my primary goals. My typical work schedule involves about 10 hours of events per week, 10 hours of training and management, and 10-20 hours of practice. All of these tasks are incredibly important, and all of them play a role in transforming me into the best children’s entertainer that Denver has to offer. Since I’m young, saving money, and living my dream, I’m focusing on those 10-20 hours of practice and preparing myself to be the best. Here’s my thought process and considerations as I continue to dive into practice:
An Efficient Approach to Practice
I was in school long enough to hear about learning methods many times. Specifically, almost every teacher that I ever had was happy to mention that studying small amounts over time was much more effective than cramming right before a test. I was a pretty good student, due to effective time management and a resistance to procrastination. While I wasn’t much of a studier, I applied this logic to my assignments and to the classes that did require rigorous preparation. I’ve also applied it to my learning entertainment skills over the years. In college I would make at least one balloon every single day. Some days I would do much more, but that consistent practice everyday ingrained it into my mind. Six months later I had begun to feel very comfortable with balloons in my hands and could start to imagine new designs.
I’ve found that a few minutes of practice, broken up by 10-15 minutes of processing is surprisingly effective. As a great example, I take a break to cycle through 5-ball juggling a few times whenever I finish a paragraph or get up for more coffee. I cycle between contact juggling isolations, toss juggling, and body rolling over 5-6 minutes, both to preserve my hands and to ensure that I’m making the most efficient use of my time. I’ve tried listening to Spanish lessons at the same time, but I just get distracted patting myself on the back for being so productive.
I try to focus on technique more than results. For example, when I juggle 5-balls, I don’t usually toss them as long as I can until I drop them. Instead, I toss them for 9-15 throws and then catch them again. Going until I drop them might be more satisfying in terms of achievement, but the last thing my brain needs is to process those tosses that lead to me dropping the balls. It may seem or look silly, but my progress has improved significantly since I started feeding it more positive results and fewer mistakes.
Using Film to Identify Good and Bad Segments
I’m still getting the hang of video editing and using iMovie on an old dinosaur I picked up on eBay. I’ve found filming myself to be pretty valuable. I did an analysis of a video a few months ago and found some major flaws in my approach. By observing my raw footage I’m able to check what tricks I’m using too often and which ones look better or worse than I thought.. For example, by watching raw footage of myself I discovered that I have a sort of “home base” for contact juggling tricks. Every 30-40 seconds I see myself doing a palm isolation and swooping my off hand around it. It’s not a bad trick, especially because it lends itself to transitioning into other moves. I was able to identify that trick as repetitive and not nearly as visually stimulating as I would like to believe.
The other way that I can use film is to take specific segments and analyze how I can improve them. In this short clip, for example, I’m able to see that my body rolling isolation starts out positively but ultimately gets out of hand. This is six seconds out of more than a minute that I practiced this move, but it shows me a lot. It lets me know where I need to transfer hands in order to keep the ball in place. It also lets me see that by going too fast and waiting too long to transfer the ball, I end up getting out of place. Once I start transferring above the elbow, it’s game over. After a few more weeks of practicing it, I can film again and really start to compare them in order to see what still needs improvement.
Long Term vs Short Term Improvement
One of the biggest struggles that I run into is whether or not to push for long-term or short-term improvement. The difference may not be obvious, but with some digging it is very clear. Working on a new 3-ball juggling trick is clearly a short-term benefit: I could toss it into my show the very next weekend. While it’s easy to learn, I won’t hear any real change in my audience’s reaction since it’s a 1-2% improvement. A whole new trick, such as 5-ball juggling, is much more of a long-term project. I can’t do it reliably now, and I won’t be able to next week, but when I unveil it in a few months it will make a big difference. I believe that it’s important to focus on both in order to keep my rate of improvement steady.
Working on steady improvement also allows me to work consistently on my delivery. Before I start my outdoor practice sessions, I try to watch at least one expert performer in order to keep the lessons they teach me in mind. For example, watching a comedic juggler gives me ideas on how I can use the juggling props for much more than just juggling. Watching unique performers can give me some insight as to how I can take my performance into my own unique direction. I constantly have jokes and ideas running through my mind while I practice, which really helps me plan ahead. I’ve found that, unfortunately, kids don’t care too much about the technical difficulty of a trick. They care if I drop the balls on my head and fall over! Feedback from those who are around me is also very important, which is why I make it a priority to practice in public, particularly at my favorite neighborhood Lindsley Park. Below is my newest video, documenting some of the progress i made in the last month or two!