The Third Leader: Up in the air

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The Independent Online

This eternal human impulse to organise everything can be a bit of a pain. Hardly a day passes without a humourless attempt to impose order on some free-spirited activity. It's only 150 years or so, for example, since what had been a happy kick-about was given all these rules and began its descent towards taking itself more seriously than life and death.

And now, as we report today, there is a movement to organise juggling into a serious, Olympic sport. Juggling! Can there be a finer expression of frivolity? Why is no Roman orgy complete without a juggler tossing some balls or blazing brands about? Because juggling is about abandon and defying rules, particularly of any kind of gravity.

So, currently, we have a teenage Russian brother and sister who hold various world records for catching but have "no interest in showbusiness or comedy patter". What of that noble, sustaining tradition of imagination represented by such as the Great Cinquevalli, who juggled with cannonballs and held a man over his head with the other arm when he was not being the Human Billiard Table? What of all the other speciality acts, such as Derrick Rosaire's Wonder Horse, Betty Kaye's Pekinese Pets, and that chap who used to sing "Mule Train" while bashing his head with a tin tray? Did you know, too, that the matchless W C Fields began as a comedy juggler?

Was it all for nothing? Yes, that was its point, apart from entertaining us and feeding them. And why did jugglers introduce unicycles, comedy patter, chainsaws and lots of burning things? Because, without them, juggling is flaming boring. We say: drop it!