Interview with Scott Seltzerin August, 2008 by David Stephens Behind the Juggler
This week I am featuring an interview with the very talented Scott Seltzer. This interview actually has a lot of personal meaning for me because one of the first juggling videos I watched online was his Open Juggling performance from one of the Israeli juggling conventions. It is not a clichť when I say that his juggling is truly inspiring.
Behind the Juggler Presents: Scott Seltzer
Name, how old are you, and for how long have you been juggling?
My name is Scott Seltzer and Iím 37 years old. I learned how to juggle 3 balls in 1978 but started juggling more seriously (clubs, 4+ balls, passing) in October of 1992 when I came to Israel. My first roommate at the time had just gotten into juggling. He had ďThe Complete Juggler,Ē some professional beanbags, and Beard Beach Clubs. Since I had a good foundation with the cascade (14 years by then) and a few basic tricks, it was easy for me to learn clubs and new tricks quickly. We had a blast practicing and put together a routine for a talent show. That was really the start of my serious obsession with juggling.
At what point did you know that juggling was what you wanted to do, and would make up
a critical part of your life?
Iíve been totally obsessed since 1993.
To date, what is the most unusual thing or set of things that you have juggled?
My trademark in my shows is egg juggling. I devised numerous humorous ways to juggle them and splatter them all over me and around me. I do tricks with 3, 4, 5, and sometimes 7 eggs. I break about 2 dozen or more eggs in every show.
I also perform with a 10 kilo pumpkin (or watermelon) and 2 balls. And I have another routine where I play a kazoo while I juggle it and 2 balls. I never performed it, but I can juggle and play a song with 3 kazoos while showering them in and out of my mouth. Another original thing I sometimes perform is 3 opened hedgetrimmers (think a big X with 2 handles and 2 sharp blades).
What has your juggling career entailed so far?
I started street performing in the summer of 1993 on Ben Yeudah Street, a pedestrian mall in the center of Jerusalem. It started out more like practicing in public but some performer friends gave me advice and by the end of the summer I had a fairly polished torch juggling routine.
In the fall of 1993, I got a great gig at a Roman-themed restaurant in the Old City of Jerusalem. I did a comedy juggling routine that included juggling impressions of different religions and of ancient Roman architecture. I ate apples, juggled a watermelon, and did fire juggling, too. I did about 200 shows/year there (in the evenings so also maintained my day job in hi-tech) and worked there until 1999.
I took a break from performing when I moved out to the country and had my first child in 1999.
In 2003, I started my comeback and did a few big community shows and started doing more birthdays and bar/bat mitzvahs, which is basically what I do these days. Iíve also performed in malls and schools and other large community events.
In the summer of 2007, I was on the TV show, "HaMofaah HaBilti Nitpas" (the Israeli version of America's Got Talent) doing something I had never performed before. They said that they already had enough jugglers participating so I put together a routine of balancing things on my face. It was fairly standard balancing stuff, but I had one big trick Ė throwing a baseball cap behind my back to a nose balance and then juggling 3 clubs while maintaining the balance. You can watch a clip here: http://nimrod.nana10.co.il/Article/?ArticleID=500969
I still work in hi-tech but do a handful of shows each month.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I was the finale performer at the Israeli show of the Israeli juggling conventions a few years ago. Itís great to be recognized by your peers and I still get people coming up to me years later telling me how much they liked my act.
How many of each type of props do you juggle?
Balls: I perform 15-20 throws of 7, I can qualify 8, and do more than a flash with 9.
Clubs: I perform 5 clubs and in practice can do dozens of tricks with 5 clubs. I have done more than flash with 6 and 12 throws of 7 clubs.
Rings: I donít really juggle rings but can do many tricks with 5 and have flashed 7.
I donít work on numbers at all anymore. My favorite is really tricks with 5 balls or clubs.
Do you specialize in any auxiliary props or non juggling circus arts?
I am pretty good with a yo-yo and diabolo. I can do basics with nearly everything.
Generally speaking, do you wear socks while you juggle?
Only when people pay me enough money (i.e. when I perform)! I wear sandals 365 days/year and I practice in them or barefoot.
At what types of venues do you usually perform?
Bar/bat mitzvahs and birthday parties are my main thing. Occasionally community shows in malls, community centers, synagogues, municipal functions, etc. Since I have a day job, I canít really do schools and camps and such.
Anything amusing or unique ever happen at one of these shows?
Well, Iíll share with you some of my favorite audience responses. Once a parent told a girl to thank me for my performance and she came over and said, ďI love you!Ē - that was truly sweet! Once a very little boy didnít know how to express himself with words so he just came over and gave me a hug. Recently I even had an ultra-Orthodox rabbi give me a hug after my show. I donít get them often, but Iíve had a few standing ovations which are amazing.
Are you a clown?
Nope. My show is fairly technical but I do have some humor that is fairly clown-like. I do eat apples in my show.
What makes up a standard juggling practice for you?
I mostly work on 4 and 5 clubs. I never warm up and for years started with 5 clubs but recently have been starting with 4 clubs sometimes. I have a small handful of tricks that Iíve been working on for years and occasional new tricks. I can spend 30 minutes or more on repeating attempts of a single trick and I never get bored or frustrated. At my age and infrequent practice regimen, I donít improve so quickly anymore Ė but I still have a great time trying!
What is it that will make you want to pick up your props tomorrow and keep juggling?
I really love juggling. I like the challenge of trying what was once impossible. I still impress myself with new accomplishments. I also enjoy creating new tricks and showing off for jugglers.
What goals are you currently working towards?
Some tricks Iíve been working on recently are (all with clubs): 5551 with 5s backcrossed (in either triples or doubles), 5551 with the 5s backcrossed and the 1 placed on my nose directly into 3 clubs with balance, 3 clubs with a balance and continuously changing which club is balanced (placing in a new club just as one is dropped down). With 5 clubs: 95551, backcrosses, 4 clubs with balance, 744, and 645.
Which prop is your favorite to juggle? Any specific reasoning?
Recently Iím more into clubs but a couple summers ago I almost only worked on balls (5 ball 3- and 5-up pirouettes, 5 and 6 ball siteswaps, and 7 ball endurance).
Are there any specific jugglers that inspire you?
Sure. Historically, Iíve been impressed with Evgeni Bilauer, Alexander Kiss, Francis Brunn, Bobby May, and Bob Bramson. Modern Technical favorites include Jason Garfield, Thomas Dietz, Anthony Gatto, Vova Galchenko. And Creative Technical stars are Jay Gilligan, Wes Peden, Ori Roth, Yanos, Sebas.
Do you have any ďclaims to fameĒ in the juggling community?
I had a lot of influence in the mid to late 90s because I had a fair amount of unique online videos.
I created the IJDb video database and was instrumental in creating the IJDb. Iím the 20th most prolific writer on rec.juggling (according to IJDb stats).
In the Israeli juggling community, Iím very active. Iím involved in the organizing of our convention and Iíve performed numerous times. People still come up to me at the convention every year telling me how much they liked my routines that I performed several years back.
I have one of the biggest commercial video collections in the world.
Where do you see yourself in terms of juggling in a month, a year, 10 years?
I would love to practice more and perform more but Iíd be satisfied with more of the same.
Itís interesting about when I get older. Iíve already got some grey hairs and I wonder if I should change some of the silliness out of my show? Will it be appropriate for someone in their late 40s? Iím not sure what will beÖ
Art or Sport?
Iíll pass for now on this one. Iíve written a bit on r.j about it so search the archive.
Balls, Beanbags, or Russians?
Iíve been using SuperCharlie bags in practice and performance since he first created them in the early 90s. He changed the recipe for his main line but still makes me a custom version that are the most catchable bag Iíve ever used.
Generally, I reserve the last question for anything the juggler would like to let us know about him that the rest of the questions didnít have time for, but this time around Iím going to take the opportunity to express my personal thanks to Scott for everything he has given the juggling community over the years. Without the IJDb and the Video section I canít imagine ever being able to get into juggling. His juggling is inspiring and I really wish everyone would take the chance to watch one of his videos and to take the time to thank him for his hard work.