Meeting Craig Quat: The evolution in juggling pedagogy

Meeting Craig Quat: The evolution in juggling pedagogy

(Please note that all of the quotes presented here are actually paraphrased, but written as quotes to denote speaking. I don’t have a direct recording to be completely accurate of his word choices, but attempted an approximation for a feel of who Quat is.)   Craig Quat walks into the room with a large bounce in his step. “I need a few minutes to relax before we start, I just had an 8 hour meeting” he says. He was meeting with Cirque du Soleil to consult with them about their new family entertainment centers. “But first, who are you?” he asks. I tell him that I am a juggler, and more recently, a mom. “Being a mom is juggling. Changing a diaper requires bilateral precision through space and time. You have to unfold the diaper and hold a baby while they try to roll and anticipate their movements so you can get it in the right spot.” he pauses.  “Everything is juggling”. It seems to me like this is his motto. Quat is a bundle of passion and vibrance who talks fast about deep concepts with a strong penchant for ethics. He is highly researched with a sureness about the importance of his work, but feels a need to continue researching and do more trials. One thing that’s for sure, he cares for, and understands his students like no other teacher I have ever seen. Most of his energy revolves around helping people learn about juggling. He will tell you a dozen juggling related neurological facts. “Juggling increases the brain mass by 5 percent after 6 weeks of practice...
Choreograph Breath

Choreograph Breath

I had an amazing experience recently. When I was performing at the Waterloo Juggling Festival, everything in my act went exactly as planned. This, of course, sounds how it should be, but if I am honest with you, I have really struggled in my carrier to nail it. I do well, enough to ensure no one else notices my foibles, but there was one thing that drastically changed how I felt during my act: I choreographed a moment of stillness in order to take a deep breath. In fact, even in this act, I forgot to choreograph one last breath in the final minute of the act. At 40 seconds, I fumbled just a tiny bit. How was I making it through 6 minutes without breathing  before? In reality, it’s scary to take time to be still on stage. This makes me feel all the feelings contained within my body. All eyes are upon me in that moment, and I feel the urge to do and be something. There is this voice inside that says “You don’t want to waste a precious second of your audiences time without entertainment!”. It’s a lie. As my teacher David McMurray Smith says “Nothing never happens”. But when you are up on stage, building energy, it is very likely that your sympathetic nervous system has kicked in. Your body becomes a jumble of nerves and using cognitive functions becomes more difficult. The body puts its resources into fight or flight responses.  It’s screaming “Do something!”. This is where all that practice comes in handy! It’s great to rehearse an act 100 times but...
Showing up vs Showing off

Showing up vs Showing off

Notice the differences between your practice when you feel like you are in a comparative mindset.  Are you showing up, or are you showing off? Showing off is all about your ego, with you as the center of your mindset. You are in the future mindset with angst or arrogance. This is where you find yourself trying to prove something to other people, gain validation from their attention. This is where you are trying to be “the best”, “the prettiest”, “the coolest” instead of trying to do the work of expressing all the original expression only you can do. In contrast, by showing up, you connect with yourself authentically as you are right now. The quality of your work changes when you can be with yourself because you can connect with others. When you are showing up, you’ll find yourself able to listen, as you have already learned to listen to yourself. When you’ve stopped trying to prove yourself to others, you can slow down and turn your attention outwards and hear what the world needs from you. We artists need to promote ourselves consistently to be able to sell our work. Taking photos and videos, writing bios and promotion packages then creating perfection on stage. There is an enormous focus on our egos because we are the product we are selling. We sell our image and our moves. Showing off is an easy trap to fall into in the business. Yet, the other side to this line of thinking is that what we are really showing is the work we do on ourselves. Our ability to be authentic...
Mindfulness on Stage

Mindfulness on Stage

The fleeting moment of accomplishment is not the goal of our work. Sure, it’s motivating and it feels great. If all goes well those peaks will be there. But, that moment is only a split second of the real work. The mindfulness is the true purpose of the practice. Witnessing yourself through all the peaks and the valleys without judgement (or letting go of judgement) is what will keep us coming back to the studio. Getting into our body, feeling ourselves and how we relate to the space around us, going deeper and feeling our feelings is the real reason we practice anything in life. Our audiences don’t want to watch someone who shames themselves into being “perfect”. Our audience wants to to connect to us, because for that moment that we are on stage, we let them into our world. We give them permission to feel their feelings through our process of sharing ours. We allow them a moment to side step their own shame, and validate themselves. This can only happen if we give ourselves permission to feel and be ourselves and be free of our own cultural constructs that bring about shame in the first place. The meaning of our practice is in the mindfulness. It’s not about the attainment of each trick. Tricks show the mastery over the our world, it’s true. But honestly, mastery is only interesting for a second. What humans really desire is that connection, and mastery actually creates walls and idols and pedestals that destroy our ability to connect. The progress of ourselves as humans is the real story. How did...
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