“Some (jugglers) opt for ‘awe and inspire,’ I use it to make myself look like an idiot.” Salida Circus Training Manager Joe Lobeck started juggling two years ago after joining the Circus. He practices six to eight hours a day. Lobeck said he’s been putting in the hours because juggling is basically his job. “The higher the quality of my performance, the better I can teach and entertain.”
During the winter, Lobeck teaches circus classes every weekday. In the summer he performs with the circus three days a week.
“Everyone sucks at juggling. No one can do it on their first try – well, maybe one in a million. If you juggle and apply yourself, you earn that skill.”
In February Lobeck will take his juggling skills to Mumbai, India, for a month to help start a Social Circus program. He will participate in a five-day program that trains trainers. “My role is to learn from other trainers and to help launch and initiate the (circus) program.”
Since joining Salida Circus, Lobeck has traveled to Turkey, Jordan, Finland, Palestine and Ireland.
“The fear of the Middle East is all just garbage. They are really wonderful, kind people who are interested in other cultures. It was heartwarming and challenging.”
He said the “real game changer” was when he went to Turkey. Lobeck and a few others traveled from Mardin to the border town of Nusaybian to entertain school children. Kids came by the thousands, Lobeck said. He described one of his juggling routines, which involves replacing the balls with food like an apple, onion or tomato. When he does this act, he invites a child from the audience to help him. Lobeck tells them to yell “bite” when the apple is in his right hand. In Turkey, a translator helped. Usually “bite” is called out when the apple is not in his right hand, which leads Lobeck to bite, say, the onion.
“I like to involve kids, put them in the spotlight. People don’t care about your skills as much as they care about you. They don’t care about balls in the air. They’ve seen that before.”
When working with orphans and refugees, Lobeck said his goal is to make sure they have fun while he is on stage.
With a few countries under his circus belt, Lobeck’s destination goal became India, although he was surprised to learn no Social Circus exists in such a large country. He started to put out feelers to the wide Social Circus network, of which Salida Circus is a part.
One lead led to another, and Lobeck was eventually connected with Kevin O’Keefe, who invited him to India to help launch his year-round circus in Mumbai.
Lobeck said he plans to return to Mumbai in the fall and, quite possibly, annually.
“I thrive in chaos. It’s not for everyone. Some people need structure, but not me. In the midst of screaming and shouting, I focus better. So I guess it’s a good thing I’m in this line of work. It’s like building a sandcastle while it’s being knocked down by waves.”
Juggling has changed how Lobeck deals with failure. “I’ve failed way more in juggling than I’ve succeeded, especially in performances. They say it takes 10 years of practice in any skill to master it.” With that mindset, Lobeck said two years ago he declared he would dedicate at least 10 years to juggling and see where it can get him. So far, it’s yielded several trips to countries around the world.
Lobeck will be taking 300 juggling balls, spinning plates and dimensions for stilts as a contribution to the circus-startup in India. He welcomes any monetary help in both purchasing and transporting these circus-wares. For more information and the opportunity to donate, visit gofundme.com/social-circus-india.