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Seminole teen to compete in world juggling championship in Las Vegas

Daniel Brown, 16, has won Florida’s top juggling competition for the past three years. He started juggling when he was 13 and is considered an up-and-comer in competitive juggling. In between juggling gigs, he practices about 15 hours a week.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

Daniel Brown, 16, has won Florida’s top juggling competition for the past three years. He started juggling when he was 13 and is considered an up-and-comer in competitive juggling. In between juggling gigs, he practices about 15 hours a week.

SEMINOLE — The juggler starts with three balls.

Working to the beat of an upbeat Latin tune, he keeps the balls constantly in motion.

He adds another ball to the mix, then another, then another, then another.

Everyone watching at the retirement home where he is performing can't take their eyes off of him.

For his finale, he does a quick spin, then lets each of the airborne balls fall into his hands to complete the act.

The crowd applauds. Cell phones and hand-held video cameras capture the moment.

"Thank you for giving me the honor of performing for you," the juggler says with a bow.

Seven balls and a spin — tough stuff for any juggler.

For the past three years, he has won Florida's top juggling competition. On July 21, he heads to Las Vegas to compete for the world juggling championship. He is considered a major up-and-comer in the competitive juggling world.

He is 16 years old.

• • •

Daniel Brown knows most people have seen other jugglers before. Yeah, it's cool for a moment, but then what?

But Dan, who lives in Seminole, can do more than just toss three or four objects in the air.

At any one time, he can keep up eight balls. Or six clubs. Or six rings.

He does that while spinning 360 degrees, tossing the objects under his legs or juggling behind his back.

"Many people can juggle seven balls, but a good juggler can do it with tricks," said Dan, a rising senior at Northside Christian School in St. Petersburg. "The things I've done may take five, 10 years to figure out."

Dan has his own YouTube channel, where he uploads videos of his juggling. Around town, he has performed at elementary schools and retirement homes.

He even carries business cards.

"He's really serious about it," said his mother, Mary Brown, a homemaker. "He just loves it. It's his passion."

• • •

What pops into your head when you think of jugglers? Clowns? The circus?

Jason Garfield has worked most of his life to change that perception.

In 2000, Garfield, 34, started the World Juggling Federation.

The organization works to promote juggling as a sport. Members focus on the technical aspects, though they acknowledge the entertainment value will always be a part of juggling.

"One of the main reasons people do it (juggling) is to show off," Garfield said. "If you rush your progress, you can trip up."

Young jugglers like Dan show that juggling is changing and becoming more serious, Garfield said.

"He's very good," Garfield said. "He's pushing up there with the advanced competitors."

• • •

Dan started juggling when he was 13 after reading about it in a hobby book.

He progressed quickly, taking only a month to go from three to four balls, then a few more to go from four to five. His confidence soared.

"He's captured the attention of some of the world's best jugglers," his mom said.

Dan is used to people noticing him. Whenever he's out in public and starts to toss objects, a crowd usually forms. It has happened at parks, in parking lots, even at the grocery store.

About a year ago, a man came up to Dan and said that he had been considering suicide, but that when he happened to glimpse Dan juggling outside a restaurant he decided to keep on living.

Seriously?

Dan and his parents — who were there during the encounter — all swear it really happened.

Said Dan: "I didn't know (juggling) could have such an impact."

• • •

Like many kids his age, Dan hasn't completely figured out what he wants to do when he gets older. But he says juggling will always be there.

Right now, he's focused on the WJF event.

He plans to compete at the intermediate level performing two routines full of spins, tricks and other moves.

Garfield said he expects several hundred people at the event, which has been shown on ESPN in the past.

Dan is already putting in about 15 practice hours a week in between gigs. He's also trying to raise money for the trip.

"Everywhere I go people find it impressive," Dan said. "It's just lots of fun to me … and I guess I like the attention."

Seminole teen to compete in world juggling championship in Las Vegas 07/08/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 9, 2010 8:08am]
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