The History of Ball Contact & Manipulation

Balls have been played with in many cultures around the world for thousands of years. Historically several things were united to form the origins of modern Contact:

  • Chinese medicine ball palmspinning
  • General manipulation and magic
  • 1 ball body rolling
  • Object Balancing

Chinese Medicine Ball Palmspinning

A technique with strong Oriental origins is palmspinning with small metal Chinese health balls, also known as “Baoding balls”, “medicine balls”, “therapy balls” “iron balls”. This is the ancestor of Multiball Contact techniques and can be traced back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
A little more about Chinese medicine balls.

General Manipulation and Magic

For example the famous billiard ball manipulation routine from the magician Cardini in the mid-20th Century. It’s a lovely routine with Cards and cigarettes, but the real important bit starts at 5:00 min:

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Cardini in action – Watch from 5:00 to 5:55min for billiard ball manipulation, including a cradle

1 Ball Body Rolling

This has origins in Asia using a woven basket ball (see Chinlone). It came to the West in the 1800s, brought by highly skilled “oriental jugglers” who inspired incredible body rollers including; Paul Cinquevalli (1859-1918), Enrico Rastelli (1896-1931) and Francis Brunn (1922/3-2004).

Today, some of the best body rolling skills can be seen in Rhythmic Gymnastics, which has existed since the 1880s and has been an Olympic sport since 1984.

Rythmic Gymnast Bodyroll Montage – From the Ministry archives

In the 1970s and 80s several manipulators and jugglers were independently developing what was later to become Ball Contact.

Notable amongst them was Tony Duncan, who in summer 1978 developed moves incorporating “forearm rolls” and “half butterflies” (half of the 1 ball “butterfly” movement) into juggling and in 1983 and had a 1 ball routine of “Dynamic Balancing” (the name he prefers “Contact Juggling”). With Multiball, he was working on 3 ball separated palm rolling cascades in 1980. This pioneering Contact was to be totally eclipsed by that of Michael Moschen.

A milestone in the development of Modern Contact was the routine “light” by Michael Moschen in 1985…. Next Page»