COLUMBIA — Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Put your arms to your side and bend your elbows, palms facing up. Pick up a ball, and prepare yourself for a lesson in juggling.
After two decades without a formal gathering of jugglers at MU, the University YMCA launched a juggling club. With about six regulars, the club has been meeting every Monday afternoon since September.
During practice Monday, the members took shelter in the lobby of the Fine Arts Building while rain pounded outside.
As french horns played in the background, students walked through the lobby. They lugged umbrellas, backpacks, tubas, cellos and trumpets while dodging flying multi-colored balls.
The club is one of 10 student-run programs that the University YMCA offers. Julie Alexander, director of the University YMCA and adviser for the club, started the group because she wanted to bring back a club she was part of when she was in college at MU in the early 1980s. She helps teach juggling and encourages more advanced members to help beginners so they can get better.
Becca Allgire said she had only juggled a couple of times before Alexander nudged her to join. Allgire is now the club’s president.
“I’ve gotten a lot better, and I’m having a really good time,” she said.
Because the club practices on Lowry Mall, it attracts interested people and new members. “People are always coming up saying, ‘Hey I know how to juggle!’ or ‘I used to juggle in high school.’ People are always watching and asking us questions,” Alexander said.
T.J. Graven, a junior in fisheries and wildlife at MU, joined the club after he saw some friends practicing.
“It’s a new thing to learn,” he said. “It’s a little difficult but not so difficult that you don’t get frustrated with it.”
Sometimes students who stop and talk to the group are able to contribute a little knowledge or trick they have up their sleeve.
Chris Tate, who founded a juggling club at his high school in Kansas City, approached the club during a practice and has been able to teach some members different techniques, such as passing a ball or pin behind one’s back.
Students in the club are working at different levels. Some students are juggling with two balls while other are juggling with five balls or even three pins.
“You can pretty much juggle any three objects, but most people start at balls and work their way up,” Alexander said.
Eventually. Alexander hopes the students will get good enough to schedule community performances.
The club practices from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. every Monday in front of the Fine Arts Building.