The juggler knew what his audience wanted to see – the dangerous stuff. So he displayed a bowling ball, a garden rake, and “a very real ninja katana sword . . . case.”
Fifty-plus people filling the Homeland main dining room groaned. The actual sword would be much more dangerous. The juggler gave in, adding the sword to his rotation.
“You guys don’t let me get away with anything,” he mock-complained.
On the day before New Year’s Eve, Homeland gave residents a special treat. Character juggler Chris Ivey, a one-time juggling world champion, gave an hour-long show that delivered laughs, thrills, and audience participation.
A “character juggler” is an entertainer who juggles while spicing up the act with comedy and costumes, Ivey said as he set up for the show. The Marietta-based entertainer arrived with cases full of classic and unique items, from juggling pins and rings to that garden rake and a battle ax.
Ivey balanced the battle ax on his head while juggling several balls.
“I have a splitting headache,” he told the crowd, earning another groan.
Juggling has been “a beautiful outlet” for his skills and personality since he first started practicing at 10 years old, Ivey said. “I was always the kid who couldn’t sit still. I love the movement.”
In 2002, Ivey and a partner won a gold medal at the World Juggling Championships. He has appeared on television and performed in theaters and world-famous venues, including Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Today, Ivey performs regularly and also teaches fourth grade. Retirement-community shows are a favorite.
“They’re so appreciative,” he said. “So kind. I love them.”
Throughout the hour-long show, Ivey kept the residents and staff fully engaged. They told Ivey he’d enjoy living at Homeland. They said “uh-oh” when he promised to catch a concrete bocce ball on his head (and he did catch the ball, but then showed that it was rubber).
When it was time for audience participation, he took the show to the residents. Running from one end of the room to the other, he kept plates spinning on slim poles he handed to three different residents. When all the plates were spinning at full speed, he collected them back and kept them spinning until, with a flourish, he let all three sets drop in unison to the floor.
“My wife won’t let me in the kitchen anymore,” he said.
After the show concluded with an agile display of flashing knives, Ivey told the crowd he had just presented his 73rd and last show of 2016.
“We get to end the year with you, and I can’t think of a better place to wrap up 2016,” he said.
Among residents, there were smiles all around. Harry Zimmerman said he enjoys getting out of his room for Homeland activities whenever possible. Joe Bowers said he never juggled – just “chinked things around.”
Mary Anna Borke remembered plate spinners who used to appear on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Ivey, she said, “did a variety of props, so there wasn’t all the same stuff.”
“He was very personable,” added Phoebe Berner. “He has a good sense of humor. You have to, I guess.”