Still work in progress currently updating: 19/08/10
After 15 years teaching contact juggling and manipulation here are…
MoM’s Recommended Balls for Beginner Contact Jugglers
In order to learn contact juggling you need only 1 ball, any of these will be an ideal first ball, and for many contact jugglers, it will be all the ball they ever need.
- An Orange – Tasty, and you’ve probably already got one, preferably as large and as round as you can get. This will make a great substitute while you wait for one of the following ball to be delivered / visit to your local juggling store.
- 100mm/4″ “Practice Contact Ball” – This is a heavier and more stable stage ball developed for Contact juggling.
- 100mm/4″ Sil-X Ball – The Sil-X balls were developed by Play Juggling in Italy, The 100mm version was designed and tested by Drew from MoM to be an ideal ball for 1 ball Contact Juggling.
- 125mm/5″ Jeanine Bodyrolling – Mister Babache have taken their classic 100mm stage ball, and increased the size to 125mm to make Jeanine’s dream ball for Bodyrolling contact juggling.
- 85mm-100mm/3.5″-4″ Clear Acrylic Ball.
What about beautiful acrylic balls? Oooh, Shiney. We wouldn’t recommend that a beginner buys just an acrylic ball. Learning Contact Juggling takes a lot of practice, and a lot of dropping, which can scratch to your lovely shiney new acrylic. So if you want an acrylic, we would recommend that you get one of the balls above and also an acrylic ball. Which size acrylic? 85mm-100mm/3.5″-4″ see below.
A more detailed answer
What’s the best size ball for Contact Juggling?
For most people, a 100mm/4″ diameter Ball is an ideal size for starting 1 ball contact juggling, this is also the most common size used by expert Contact Jugglers.
Children or women with very small hands, might want to consider a smaller ball 85-90mm/3.5″ as a viable alternative. A smaller ball may be cheaper and might feel more manageable for Contact Juggling in the hands, but it is less stable and so will be more difficult to learn arm rolling, body rolling and to perfect isolations. So generally we would recommend 100mm/4″ for everyone.
The best size of ball for starting to learn Multiball Contact Juggling with 3-11 balls is more complex, see this 2 page extract from Multiball Contact Appendix 2 (pdf), generally the answer is 75mm/3″ diameter acrylic balls.
Practice Contact Balls
Stage balls – we used squidgy before we found the heavier contact balls (stage ball 160g contact ball 270g). For rolling moves a Contact ball is better (Hard stage balls are sometimes described as “contact balls”)
There are several manufacturers making balls which are sold as “Practice Contact Balls” the good ones are 260g-300g, others which are like hard stage balls weigh 170g. To tell the difference, check the weight and be sure to buy the heavier option! These balls look identical! See: Top left stage ball, Top right lightweight hard stage ball (ugh), bottom Contact ball(yes).
That sorts out your first ball, but what else might be useful?
Well if you like natural can find them 4″ wooden balls are a good option, particularly if you’re into Ren Faires or historic re-enactment.
Lighter in weight and less stable than the other balls, but readily available from Juggling shops. The squishy stage balls are much nicer to use than the hard stage balls.
Body Rolling balls
If the style of contact juggling that you with to learn body rolling, you absolutely, positively, should GO LARGE. With either a 125mm/5″ Jeanine bodyrolling ball (made by Mister Babache) or Drew’s favorite Rhythmic Gymnastics ball.
We recommend one other ball for a beginner contact juggler.
- 85mm-100mm /3.5″-4″ Clear Acrylic Ball.
Everyone loves the look of Acrylic balls. Acrylics are beautiful, they are also easy to scratch. Learning Contact Juggling involves dropping the ball, a lot. There are far too many stories of contact jugglers smashing glass tables, laptop screens, and tea cups, bruising ankles and making puppies yelp. A lovely shiney new acrylic ball will get beat up with all the dropping, so if you want an acrylic, we recommend that you buy one of the other plastic balls above.
The most common size amongst professionals performing 1 ball contact juggling is 100mm. Large Acrylics are very visual, they are also heavy, for most beginners a 100mm Acrylic (pictured below) weighing 625g can be too heavy. So unless you consider yourself to have very strong hands, don’t start with such a heavy ball, you may risk tendon damage.
An 85mm-90mm/3.5″ Acrylic ball: is a much more manageable 400g and is a great choice for a beginner, with a bonus that they are often half the price of a 4″ ball. We highly recommend the very reliable supplier: Home of Poi who sell an 85mm Acrylic ball for a very reasonable price, and ship worldwide.
For 1 ball contact, don’t use an acrylic smaller than 85mm / 3.4″. Keep those classic 3″/75mm sized balls for Multiball Contact. Such small balls are too small for 1 ball contact, they do not have enough visual impact for the audience. That light weight and small size makes them less stable, it will be much easier to learn with a larger ball.
Balls we don’t recommend for learning contact juggling:
- Any ball lighter than 250g – learning Contact is much easier with a heavier ball.
- Any ball heavier than about 600g – A very heavy ball can be dangerous for the tendons of a beginner.
- Any ball smaller than 3.4″/85mm – learning Contact Juggling is much easier with a larger ball.
- Small stage balls – Smaller than 4″/100mm, Very light and unstable,
- Small Acrylics less that 3″ diameter. Visually, these get lost in your hands – this includes Fushigi balls – Ugh.
- Tennis balls, Pool balls, snooker balls and Lacrosse balls – ugh far too small
- Hard stage balls – any size. Ugh, the soft ones are so much nicer to use.
Drew: I learned with a 3″ stage ball. Ewwww. If I’d had better advice, and got a larger heavier ball, then I would probably have saved myself 2 years of practice.