Author Topic: Diabolo Insight: Interviews of the diabolo community - Donald Grant  (Read 7531 times)

Chiok

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Welcome one and all,

After a bit of work and alot of slacking, I've been trying to rustle together some interviews with "legends" of the diabolo world so that you can all gain an in-depth look at the people who have shaped the diabolo world into what it is today for us all.  As a first installment into these interviews, I was able to track down Donald Grant, diabolo master supremo, to tell about his past, his present and his future and how he is the man we know today.  Known widely for his series of incredibly useful diabolo books, Donald invented and named many of the tricks we use today.

More interviews are to follow in coming weeks, when I manage to transcribe them.  Big thanks to Seán_, Sean and others for helping with this and without further ado, I present Donald Grant...

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Hi Mr. Grant, thank you for taking the time to give your thoughts, first things first though; why is diabolo your prop of choice?

Well, from a performance perspective, it allows you to have a much better contact with the audience compared to other forms of juggling.  It’s also much easier to change tempo, hit accents in the music and move around the stage.
On the fun/ creative side of things, you’ve got so much to play with: diabolo, sticks, string, body, three dimensions…..it’s a prop which begs to be experimented with.
Oh yes, and ‘cos my seven balls sucks :-)

Where do your origins with circus skills come from and your history of performing with diabolos?

I had a boring summer job when I was 16, checking tickets on a golf course.  To keep myself amused, I taught myself to juggle golf balls and balance clubs.  I’d never seen another juggler before, but managed to work out a couple of dozen three ball tricks and how to do four.
Somehow I got invited to perform at the Streetbiz International Street Festival in Glasgow in 1989.  I had a fantastic time, saw my first real juggler (Oliver Grozer), met lots of great people and I was hooked.  Street shows and local galas ended up being my summer job when I was at university.
About the same time I got very involved with trampolining, which ended up being my main sport while studying.  My first contact with a circus school was actually as a guest trampoline coach at the Circus Space in London!
Once I graduated, I applied to train at the Ecole Nationale de Cirque in Montreal.  I was out at the New Zealand juggling convention when I heard (via several relayed messages in those pre-internet, pre-mobile phone days) that I’d been accepted and started training that summer.
I got my first diabolo in the summer of 1990.  For a while it was just another prop that I did in my half hour “balls-sticks-boxes-diabolo-clubs-axes-fire” street show.  I’d learned (like most people back then) from the tiny section in The Complete Juggler.  Having exhausted that fairly quickly, I started trying to come up with new stuff.  Big influences were Pearse Halfpenny who showed me lots of new stuff, Guy Heathcote and a forty second clip of Jochen Schell taped off the telly.  Bruce Wilson was just getting into diabolo at the same time so we pushed each other creatively chucking stuff around in his kitchen in Edinburgh.
My first purely diabolo performance, believe it or not, was in the Public Show of the EJC in Leeds in 1993.  I did one night and Fritz Grobe (freshly crowned IJA champ) did the other two.  Twas a scary experience, especially as I’d crammed the whole thing with the hardest tricks I could do.  I can still remember running through it in the gymnastic hall with Ben Richter: five drops, four drops, seven drops, six drops……eventually I just said what the hell, see how it goes on the night.
One drop, lucky dog.
The number I perform nowadays is a development of the one I created in Montreal in 1995.  Much has changed, but the bare bones are still pretty much the same.

You’ve already published a fantastic set of diabolo books several years ago, how are your other two books coming along (Suicidal Tendencies and Grante’s Inferno)?  Any chance of a sneaky insight?

Oooh, the next two books.  Originally finished writing them years ago, but with Circustuff being a small publishing house, they always ended up being pushed down the schedule because of the other books being reprinted.  I revamped them a couple of years ago, but they still never quite came out.  The good news is that yes, they will finally appear this year thanks to Butterfingers (who now print all the others too). They’re both on one diabolo: Suicidal Tendencies is on all the new suicide tricks, Inferno is about all manner of weird string tricks and body moves.
All the extra stuff which has been edited out might end up as a freebie on a website, we’ll wait and see…..

From what I understand, your act is well-established and finely tuned, how have you managed to market your six and a half minutes around the world for so many years?

That’s a tricky one.  I guess it’s a combination of good promo material, act in a professional manner, be friendly, stay positive and occasionally get lucky.  It gets easier the longer you do it, as you get seen by more people, make more contacts and learn from your mistakes.

Do you have a pre-performance ritual that gets you in the “zone”?

It all depends on where I’m working.  I always used to do about ten to fifteen minutes warm-up before going on, but then playing at the Wintergarten there was no space backstage so I ended up just doing a couple of minutes.  After a week I hardly noticed the difference.  I usually just plod through the number once to warm up, do a few non-number tricks to get the cobwebs out of my head and that’s it.
Strange traditions include:
1)  I always do the jump over two diabolos to behind the back three times just to be sure.
2)  I always do exactly sixteen catches of two high to finish, even though I only do eight or nine in the show.
3)  I always do the “flick the stick off the floor” trick a dozen or so times.  Maybe because it doesn’t take up too much room, maybe because if I ever miss it on stage (it has happened!) it can be rather embarrassing to say the least.

I’ve just re-read all that and I sound like a freak.

What was your worst performing experience and what did you learn from it?

Where to begin?  Broken props, broken costumes, fallen off stage, fallen over on stage, wrong music on a live TV show, butter on the props (don’t ask), crisp bread crumbs in the eyes (ditto), attacked by mosquitoes, the list goes on and on…..
After doing the number some 2500 times, you realise that anything can happen when you’re live on stage.  What I’ve learned from it is that you can’t take it too seriously, nobody died and you always get a chance to do it again tomorrow.

Being the “daddy of modern diabolo”, are there any tricks you like to do that you *didn’t* invent yourself?

There’s *so* much great new stuff out there.  Mini-gens, infinity gens, vertax gens are all very cool and fun to do.  Slack string stuff too: totally nerdy and yet I fear that I may be addicted.

Throughout you career, you’ve experienced a lot I imagine, what do you wish to achieve in the future/ what ambitions do you wish to fulfil?

I’ve been very lucky to achieve most of my goals and ambitions.  I’d still like to go to and do a bit of diabolo in China one day, y’know “back to the roots”?  I was invited to perform at the Wuhan Festival back in 1998, but unfortunately it clashed with a cabaret job in Germany and I had to cancel.  One day…..

What do you enjoy which isn’t diabolo related?

Well, my trampolining and snowboarding days are over due to a dodgy knee and cowardice.  Golf, good whisky and cryptic crosswords are a few of my vices these days; oh god it sounds like I’m seventy  years old or something!  One of my worst habits is old video games.  I have an entire room packed to the ceiling with old consoles and stuff, and there’s always about half a dozen wired up to the telly.

How many convention t-shirt/ passes do you own?

Just went and had a look and there’s about thirty five convention passes, plus loads of backstage, festival and tour passes hanging  in a bundle on one of my office bookcases.  I don’t usually buy convention t-shirts but having had a look, I seem to have about eighteen, some from festivals I wasn’t even at (Montreal 1991?!!?)

And finally, is there anyone you would like to thank?

For sure!  Pearse Halfpenny, Jochen Schell and Guy for friendship and inspiration.  Bruce Wilson, Dave P, Barnesy, Robert Biegler, all the old guard.  Plus of course a big thanks to anyone who’s bought the books, shown me something new, and all of you at Diabolo.ca for continuing to push the envelope.
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That's all for now folks, check back in a couple of weeks when our next guest under the spotlight is eccentric entertainer and experienced 3D shuffler, Guy Heathcote.

Chiok
www.gravityvomit.co.uk - Gravity pulls down, we throw up.
University of Bath Juggling and Circus Skills

Mark BMC

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good work chiok!

The idea of diabolo allowing that amount of travel and experience is such a target to aim for. ow and thanks to Donald for taking the time. 


Sean

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Thanks Chiok and Donald! Count me in as one who studied those books religiously many years ago. Taught me everything I knew for a long time.

That was a great read. Can't wait for more.

The Void

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Lovely interview. Thanks Chiok/Donald.

The Void
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New wave of the old guard
Read the thread? Get the gear! VERTAX IS RUBBISH and other tees & hoodies: https://tlmb.net/tees

Alex!

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Great Idea!
It'll be very interesting to learn about the origins and experiences of the diabolists that we are inspired by :)
STOP! HAMMER 'TIJN

-Leo-

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That was a great interview. It was a good insight into someone who has been in the game a long time and probably one of the most well respected people in diabolo history.

I have two of his books and they were pretty much the only thing which taught me the basics (without the help of someone else.)

I look forward to Guy's interview!

-Leo
Behind your back is your front.

Pete

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Thanks to you both. Thats was a great read, very interesting. But why on earth would anyone play golf when the could be doing diabolo? Beats me.

Look forward to the next interview, who else is on the interview hit list, or would you rather keep that hushed up?
The tallest trees from acorns grow.

Chiok

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Cheers for the replies guys.  As for golf, it's awesome, buy a Wii.

I'm quite pleased with the way the answers came out despite having to conduct it over email, so flow of conversation wasn't quite there.  But Donald was a star and helped out.  Hopefully I'll be able to meet more people in person to interview and expand my diabolo of fame...

Chiok
www.gravityvomit.co.uk - Gravity pulls down, we throw up.
University of Bath Juggling and Circus Skills

zwiggelbig

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Wow.. great interview tnx

Can't wait for more :)

paul.w92

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thanks chiok!
donald grant is my most favourite juggler!!! i lerant all my tricks from his books!! i love donald grant!!

Matt

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Re: Diabolo Insight: Interviews of the diabolo community - Donald Grant
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2007, 04:06:02 am »
Outstanding Chiok-san!  Thank you for taking the time to make it happen.  And as for Donald...what else is there to say?  Your books, your master class at the IJA 2000 in Montreal, hanging out with you in Svendborg 2003 and at the Scottish (remember the pink kendama?) remain some of the most cherished memories of my juggling life so far. 

You'll be happy to note that last summer, Dave Finnigan, Dorothy Finnigan, and I spent 10 days in Montreal filming the DVD version of The Complete Juggler.  The Diabolo section has been updated, let's just leave it at that.   ;)

Keep it coming Chiok!  And Donald, if you're ever in San Fran....you know who to call. 

matt
Many Thanks to Sean for all his work and inspiration.  Respect to the MFP!

Diabolo88

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Re: Diabolo Insight: Interviews of the diabolo community - Donald Grant
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2007, 05:43:51 pm »
Wow. A very interesting interview. Thank you very much Chiok. Almost can´t believe it´s been done through the mail (it´s very good). Keep it up ;).

andrewherring

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Re: Diabolo Insight: Interviews of the diabolo community - Donald Grant
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2007, 10:49:56 am »
good stuff

ah