The Berlin juggler DJuggledy has been touring the world for more than fifteen years – and has become a big success. On the road, he says, it’s all about one thing: performance.
By Ula Brunner
The stage is set for DJuggledy: a big square, outdoors without height limit, summer weather and, of course, his diabolos, balls and juggling sticks – he doesn’t need much more to thrill his spectators. Dreadlocks, green-yellow jogging suit and brash “Berlin lip” are the hallmarks of this bundle of energy. With his tricks, he delights the audience, lets his diabolo, an hourglass-shaped juggling device, skillfully revolve around his body, throws it again and again into the air several meters high.
Contact with the public is important | Photo (detail): © Jan Manske
In private DJuggledy is called Jan Manske, is a native of Berlin, wears his hair cut short under the Rasta wig and has otherwise little resemblance to the hyper street performer: “For me, the work is an energy equalizer. I can totally live myself out in the show and then afterwards I’m very relaxed”, he says.
Manske has been touring Europe for over fifteen years with his juggling show “El Diabolo”. From May to October is peak season for a street artist like him. There are festivals, outdoor events and city festivals. He makes between fifty and a hundred appearances per season, most of them on the weekend.
Change of costume: in a red outfit at the Festival International des Artistes de Rue in Vevey, Switzerland | Photo (detail): © Jan Manske
At some point he rips off his Rasta wig, slips out of his jogging suit and provocatively grinds his hips in red shorts – a complete change of image. The trick is to surprise the audience, Manske says: “It doesn’t matter if you're juggling three balls or eight; you have to touch people somehow. What remains after a show is exhilaration.”
Juggling exercises in Berlin | Photo (detail): © Ula Brunner
If you watch him work, it’s hard to believe that here is a self-taught juggler. Manske, born in 1976, discovered the fun of juggling when he was sixteen years old. Ten years later, he found the courage to abandon his university studies in French philology and his middle-class existence and turn his hobby into his profession. “When I started, I didn’t care where the journey was taking me. The main thing was to be on the go. In the meantime I’ve been around the world; I’ve been on all continents and in forty countries.” Previously, he lived mainly from “hat revenue”, that is, the voluntary donations of his spectators. Now he is booked by many festivals for fixed fees. That is at least a little bit of job security in a job that offers little security.
The touring bus – disguised as a mobile fish shop | Photo (detail): © Ula Brunner
Among other events, festivals and street festivals in Munich, Belgium and Prague are on his schedule for the summer of 2018. Usually Manske travels with his wife, an Israeli fire artist, and their four-year-old son. For travelling, he has converted a big bus into a comfortable motor home.
Mobile home for the whole family | Photo (detail): © Ula Brunner
Sometimes the family is on the move for months from one performance to the next before returning to their home station, a small flat in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Performances have to be prepared, the car serviced and costumes washed. Being DJuggledy is also exhausting. But Manske can’t imagine giving up the nomadic life; he loves his independence, his large circle of friends from all over the world and the freedom of the road too much. “And besides", says Manske, grinning, “what’s better than working and having people applaud what you do!”