Thanks to the internet, the past decade has seen an explosion in juggling on both a creative and technical level. Records have been pushed or even made that weren’t considered possible just a few short years ago. Prop vendors have adapted as quickly as they can by creating more refined props for specific types of juggling. Specialization has become more commonplace within the sport and art of juggling. For some the right set of balls for numbers juggling, means having a set for working on 7, and a different set for 8, 9, and 10, and possibly a different set for 11 or more objects. With all this specialization, there are more and more juggling balls available on the market, but we can distill them down to a few categories; beanbags, stage balls, bounce balls, and hybrids. Brontosaurus Balls are a type of hybrid ball, but lets look at the other types first.
This is the traditional juggling ball for most people. Sections of fabric filled in varying amounts (usually with millet rather than beans) and stitched together. The world of beanbags is vast. At all the conventions I have personally been too, I have rarely met someone who juggled one type of beanbag exclusively. In fact, most people learning to juggle do with beanbags as this is what is commonly sold in learn to juggle kits, typically sold by Klutz. There are also several great juggling beanbag tutorials and instructional guides available to help people make their own sets. For those looking for more refined products, companies such as Flying Clipper, GBallz, and Sport Juggling Co. are a few of the most respected ball makers in the community, and produce balls in a variety of colors, materials, sizes, and filling. Beanbags are very versatile for all types of juggling.
Bounce juggling is exactly what the name suggests, juggling by bouncing balls. Silicone balls are very popular for bounce as they have the most return, meaning that they bounce the highest with least energy input, but other types of ball are also used as silicone balls can be expensive . Lacrosse balls are a cheap alternative, but work best when used for force bounce juggling rather than lift bounce juggling. There are also rubber alternatives
Stage balls are usually hard rubber or plastic hollow balls designed for performance. Their size gives them excellent visibility on stage, but due to being rigid and hollow, they roll quite a bit when dropped, which could be disastrous in performances as mistakes do happen. For this reason, stage balls are very popular with contact jugglers, who will roll them round their bodies to create mesmerizing routines sometimes using only one ball.
As juggling is constantly evolving, ideas for props get combined into new props, which brings us to hybrid balls. These are balls that can sometimes create new styles and techniques, or may just be fun to mess around with as a challenge. Common hybrids are stage balls filled with liquid silicone, millet, or sand. “Russian” balls are a type of hybrid that involves a hard shell which is partially filled with a powder of some sort.
Brontosaurus Balls are a type of “Russian” juggling ball. This is a bit of a misnomer, as Russian balls were actually created in Ukraine, by a Ukrainian juggler named Mikhail Rudenko. The balls used by Rudenko started off as hard plastic balls from a toy manufacturer in Pryluky, filled completely with sand. Through refinements to his design he found it far more useful to fill the balls partially. The original balls were 80mm in diameter and filled anywhere from 100-120 grams. Later he switched from sand to semolina as he found this easier for filling the balls. These balls quickly became very popular with jugglers, due in part to Rudenko’s skill as a juggler. The large Brontosaurus Ball weighs 110 grams total and is 80mm in diameter, closely matching Rudenko’s ball.
Juggling balls as you can tell aren’t just items used for a skill, but tools used to perfect a craft or to build on ideas. Whether you are a hobbyist or a professional juggler, having the right ball can make all the difference.