the Passing DataBase

The illustrations are taken from Charlie Dancey's Compendium of Club Juggling, p. 187, by kind permission of the author.

So far this workshop series has covered passing patterns for two jugglers only. Now it's time to add some variety by looking at patterns involving more than two. More people mean more choices of where to pass to.
This article is divided into two parts. First of all, I list the most common formations for deciding who passes to whom, and where to stand. To keep it simple, these descriptions all involve 3 people juggling a total of 9 clubs.
The second part gives an overview of various patterns using these basic formations. As always, there's a causal diagram to go with each pattern.

1. Formations

If there's a feeder (see below), that juggler's throws are always noted in the middle line. In the diagrams, the feeder is always juggler B. The person who dictates the rhythm is printed bolder in the diagrams, causals and siteswaps.


The classic pattern for 3 jugglers is the Feed. In a feed, one juggler, the feeder, distributes passes to 2 partners, the feedees, whereas both feedees pass only to the feeder. As a rule, that means that the feeder passes twice as often as the feedees. As the feedees cannot see each other, their best bet for keeping the rhythm is to keep pace with the feeder. The typical feeding configuration is shown in Figure 1.


See Figure 2. In contrast to the feed, all the jugglers in a Triangle pass at the same time, e.g. they could all throw to the partner on their right, along the "outside lane" of the triangle. Or they could pass "inside" to the partner on the left (this feels very confusing at first, because somebody else's clubs suddenly pop up in front of your nose). Or they could alternate right and left - ouch! The pattern starts with everyone doing the old "up-down-pass" ritual in synch. What makes triangles a bit tricky is that you receive a club from one side while you're passing to the other side. I've trained myself to look first in the direction of the incoming club and then to look where my own pass went. Maybe then at least next time I can manage not to throw straight at my partner's head. If you're doing a 3-count in a triangle, the clubs that are passed always stay on the same path: a club passed on the outside always comes back on the same outside lane.


Looking at Figure 3, you might get the impression that the Line isn't much different from a triangle. And indeed, the jugglers have "only" positioned themselfs differently. But it's not quite that simple. The juggler in the middle finds it very hard to catch passes from the partner standing behind - trying can be painful, but succeeding looks great! The juggler in the middle passes blind, throwing the clubs back over his shoulder. The partner at the back has to tell the one in the middle where to throw to. Whether the club goes over to the left or the right of the middle juggler's head is almost irrelevant - it's primarily a matter of taste. A nice variation is where the middle juggler turns round to pass to the other partner - but it's not easy and has to be announced in advance as both of the other jugglers have to adjust their passes accordingly. Again, the juggler who dictates the rhythm is printed bold.


The other day at a convention, somewhat spaced out after the usual nocturnal, insomniactivities, I was wandering around the gym at 12 in the morning when a thought came to me: Why do jugglers always throw clubs, but clubs never throw jugglers? Here's an idea: how about a passing sequence in which you switch from one formation to another, without stopping of course. A few throws in the feed position, then into a triangle, then transition to a line, then back to a triangle, then you all throw one club high, carry the others to your partner's position and catch the club that your partner threw. In other words, passing jugglers instead of clubs. Alternatively, you could put the clubs on the floor and swap places, or carry them and hand them over to a partner on the way to your new position. There are some simple patterns involving jugglers moving around and changing places while passing - and also some hellishly complex patterns. There isn't the space to describe them here - instead, I suggest you check them out at your next convention.

2. The Patterns

I'll confine my descriptions to feeds and triangles, leaving out the line (only because of lack of space). For a detailed descriptions of lines, see Charlie Dancey's Compendium of Club Juggling.

P19: 9 Club Feed 2-count / 4-count, <3:2 3 3 3| 3:1 3 3:3 3|3 3 3:2 3 >

This is the best known feeding pattern. The feeder passes a 2-count, the feedees pass 4-count. All start at the same time. The feeder (B) and juggler A begin with a pass, C begins with a self.
As the feedees have quite a lot of spare time between passes, they can rescue the pattern if they see that the feeder is in trouble. If he's not in trouble, they can get him into trouble by doing chops or triples (instead of the right self). How about one feedee doing only chops, the other doing only triples?!

P20: 10 Club Feed 2-count / 4-count, < 3 4:1 3 3 | 4:1 3 4:3 3|3 3 3 4:2 >

Again, all start at the same time. However, in contrast to P19 the feedees start with a self from the left hand. All passes are thrown as doubles. The feeder throws a "normal" 7 club 2-count, but as a feed, passing first to A, then to C, etc. The feedees pass whenever they see the feeder's pass in mid-air coming towards them - in other words, they respond to the feeder's pass. Remember, the feedees pass doubles too.
A common problem with this pattern is that the passes from the feeder to the left feedee (from B's point of view) collide with the incoming passes from the right feedee. This is simply due to limited airspace. If the right feedee throws a bit higher than usual, the feeder has room to throw his passes underneath. The title illustration shows what it can look like.

P21: 9 Club Feed - Pass Pass Self / 3-count, <3:2 3 3 | 3:1 3:3 3 | 3:3 3:2 3 >

The feedees juggle a waltz, the feeder does a pass-pass-self rhythm. The jugglers always pass simultaneously: the feeder receives a club from the feedee he's just passing to. It helps to remember that the clubs are passed back to the juggler who passed them to you. For the feedees, the pattern is pretty simple, but the feeder has his work cut out for him. Many feeders find it easier to start with the feedee on the right. He then throws: outside (pass right), outside (pass left), self (right), inside (pass left), inside (pass right), self (left). At the beginning the clubs seem to come fairly chaotically (and painfully) from all directions, raining down on the poor feeder. After a while, though, you get a feel for what's going on. It helps to juggle slowly and pass with long swinging movements.

P22: 9 Club Triangle 3-count, <3:3 3 3 3:2 3 3|3:1 3 3 3:3 3 3 |3:2 3 3 3:1 3 3>

As mentioned above, the triangle is often thrown as a 3-count. All the passes go alternately to the right partner then to the left partner. Consequently, each juggler passes to both of the others. To put it another way, all three of you are feeders! If you start with the right partner, the sequence is: outside (pass right), self, self, outside (pass left), self, self. Note that you pass in one direction and receive from the other. You can't see both clubs at the same time, so take care of yourself and your partners. For a change you could also try passing only to your right (or only to your left) partner.

P23: 9 Club Triangle - Pass Pass Self, <3:2 3:3 3|3:1 3 3:3|3 3:1 3:2 >

Now we're getting down to business! This pattern is a mixture of P21 and P22: each juggler is feeding a pass-pass-self. Note that each of the jugglers has a different rhythm: one goes pass-pass-self, one goes pass-self-pass, and one goes self-pass-pass. Theoretically you could all throw outside, outside, self, inside, inside, self. But then the passes can easily collide. Don't be put off by the diagram. The pattern looks complex, but it isn't really all that difficult.


The theoretical part of our workshop this time is fairly concrete - it's about a feeding pattern and a problem. Let's start with the pattern.
Imagine you're doing P19 when along comes a fourth juggler (D) who wants to join in. No problem - you reposition yourselfs as shown in Figure 4.
B and C feed - B with C and A, C with B and D. A and D do a 4-count. You soon get the hang of it. It's easiest if the two feeders start with the pass they throw to each other, and then pass to their respective feedees: B passes first to C, then to A; C passes first to B, then to D.
Now the problem - again a feeding pattern: The basic pattern is P20, the 10-club feed, and along comes juggler D again. He grabs three clubs and you position yourself as described above. B and C start, but this time B starts with a pass and C with a self (see description of P20). It works OK for about three throws, then D starts complaining that something's going wrong. A doesn't agree. As far as she's concerned, everything's fine.
In situations like this, D usually gets told to stop moaning - it's his fault, he must be doing something wrong. After all, if A can do it, why can't D? After a lot of arguing and more failed attempts, you decide to switch positions, and now you discover that whoever stands in D's position has a genuine problem. If D juggles the normal 10-club feedee rhythm, the pattern simply cannot work.
What's wrong?
In a 10-club feed, the feeder always passes first, and the feedee always responds with a pass of her own (see P20). You can't simply turn things around and have the feeder responding to the passes of the feedees, as passes and selfs would then collide. Or, to be more precise: It is possible, but the feedees have to change their rhythm. More on that later.
When D joins the group, he passes to C, one of B's feedees. We've just established, however, that C responds to B's passes, i.e. C passes later than B. In order for D to fit into the pattern, he has to pass in such a way that C can respond to his passes too, i.e. D always has to pass before C. That can't be done with a normal 4-count, so D has to "overtake" C.
Here's how he does it. B sets the rhythm and starts with a pass to C; D starts in with a pass to C at the same time as B throws his first pass to A. Then... D waits. He simply holds two clubs until the moment when he has to empty his left hand to catch the incoming pass from C. To do so, he throws a left self and then a pass to C. (See Charlie Dancey, p. 33: "Double Return".) That takes quite a long time - if he gets bored, he could do a 2-club shower instead: left self, right hand-across, left self, right pass. This gives D's pattern a clear rhythm (see Part 1 of this workshop series in Kaskade 56). It's a pity that D can't start the pattern with all the others, but has to wait, as described above. Here's the siteswap for this one:
< 3 3 3 4:2| 4:3 3 4:1 3 | 3 4:2 3 4:4| 1 3 4:3 3 >
Back to the pattern I promised you, in which the feedees pass ahead of the feeder. After what I've just described, it's quite easy: Take 9 (!) clubs. Both feedees throw a Double Return, the feeder responds to the incoming passes. <1 3 4:2 3 | 3 4:3 3 4:1| 4:2 3 1 3 >
And to finish off, here is the same thing for 2 jugglers: both pass 4-count, with double spins. B throws a "normal" 4-count, A overtakes him with a 2-club shower. < 4:2 3 1 3| 3 4:1 3 3>
It only remains to mention that instead of handing the club across, you could also throw it as a triple (substitute a 5 for the 1 in the siteswaps). For each substitution, add one club.

Charley Dancey, Compendium of Club Juggling, ISBN 1898591 14 8
Check out the rec.juggling discussion forum. The participants often discuss new patterns and ideas. Go to conventions. Meet other jugglers. Have fun. ;-)