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Indiana Ben cracks whip at state fairgrounds

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Jugheads Youth Juggling Co.’s Paul Arneberg gives his students plenty of freedom to succeed on their own terms. 

Ben Moore — a Woodbury resident, Arneberg’s nephew and “just one of the Jugheads,” his mother said — combined his study of the sport of juggling with a little inspiration a la Harrison Ford. 

Indiana Ben is a new act featuring juggling balls, rings and clubs, plus the cracking of two whips, and the wearing of a trenchcoat and a fedora. 

And 12-year-old Moore’s favorite part of the show? 

“Scaring people with the bullwhip,” he said.

A performer must play to the audience, Moore added.

“He likes the reaction,” said Tammi, his mother.

Welts from whips

Moore grew up going to every show at Jugheads, a business based in Edina. He attended juggling camps for two years and joined Jugheads’ Friday recreational juggling club, but his interest in performing started at age 3, while watching his uncle. 

“Ben’s been to every show since he’s been alive,” Dan, his father, said of Moore’s involvement with Jugheads. 

While juggling, Moore can perform a half shower, columns and the W — three tricks with three balls. He has done a flash. He spins rings. He juggles clubs. And he’s always working on meeting a higher degree of difficulty.

That’s the technical side of juggling. But there is also the artistic elements to the performance.

As a 9-year-old, Moore watched YouTube videos to learn how to use a bullwhip.

“It takes some skill,” Dan said.

His uncle gave him the whip he salvaged from a garbage can and refurbished. Moore was easily hooked. 

It’s not easy for teenagers or even adult stagehands to crack a whip, but Moore was up to the challenge. He quickly learned that a whip is not a weapon but a tool, and it is to be respected.

He donned a leather jacket, pants, and gloves with goggles and a salad and helmet while learning how to use a whip. 

Welts are bound to happen — Moore has “like maybe 100,” he said.

“A thousand maybe,” Dan said.

“A thousand might be exaggerating,” Tammi said.

It’s easy for the whip to wrap around Moore’s arm and hit him in the face. Welts are on his arm and back.

Then, Moore watched the “Indiana Jones” movie series. 

He studied how to use a whip overhand like Ford, wanting to perform like some of Indy’s moves.

“He kind of cracks the whip with his whole arm,” Moore said. “I tried doing that, and I got hurt.”

Moore prefers an underarm or sidearm trajectory with wrist action.

He invested in a stock whip — it’s 5 feet long and neon green. It cost about $100.

Moore’s imitation Indiana Jones bullwhip is 8 feet long and leather. It cost $75.

Moore also has another 5 footer and a 6 footer.

He looked online for the maker of Indiana Jones’ bullwhip, only to find that Ford’s whip was kangaroo hide, the strongest leather on Earth. Such a whip costs $800.

Mentored

Moore has performed in two juggling shows — the winter showcase and a May program. Each of a half-dozen clubs in the juggling company has an 8-minute routine that is choreographed. Some 30 jugglers in each club take 10- to 20-second turns being featured at center stage. 

Leading up to the performances, the weekly club works on balance, tricks, and tossing. Moore said the work on balance and attention to detail helps him in his other two sports — fencing and archery.

“It’s something fun to do,” Moore said of juggling and bullwhipping. “It’s fun. And I like performing. My goal is to be as good as I possibly can be.”

Fall, winter and spring, kids teach kids at Jugheads, in addition to the seasoned coaching of Arneberg, who has owned and operated Jugheads since 1994. 

Older jugglers continually try to invent and show off new tricks. One juggler has tried standing up the clubs on the ground and hitting them to a partner who catches the clubs. Another experienced juggler picks up balls with his bare feet, catches it with his foot, and then pops it back up to his hands. 

The older kids are role models, Tammi said.

They set goals and ask each other about their personal records.

“When they see you juggling, they ask what’s your record?” Moore said. “When I say my record, then they’re kind of like, ‘Great, let’s try to beat that record!’”

And they assist each other with encouraging, tossing, catching or counting.

The jugglers want to break personal and club records. They also want to meet the standards for moving up to the next club — a club with a higher degree of difficulty. Every time a prop is tossed out of Moore’s right hand, he counts it. For example, it might take 1 minute to juggle three balls 100 times. And it takes about 1-1/2 minutes to juggle three rings 100 times.

With four balls, it’s much harder to meet the standard. Two balls are juggled in each hand, and they don’t cross paths, Moore said.

Jugglers learn how high to throw balls. They adhere to three-, four- and five-ball heights.

“It’s all about the toss,” Tammi said, noting that Jugheads do a lot of practice tossing. “People can do really low patterns with three balls. You just have to be fast.”

When a record is broken, Arneberg wants to be there to congratulate the jugglers.

“He gets really excited about it, and makes you work on it until you get it right,” Moore said. “And then he gets really excited about it when you get it right.”

On Moore’s hat are a three-ball pin, a fourth ball, three rings and three clubs. They are public marks of success, rewards from Arneberg.

The club is Moore’s fav prop, while the bullwhip is his preferred auxiliary prop.

As the act evolved, several people contributed to the show. 

Tammi and Ben worked together with Wendy and Paul Arneberg on choreography and tricks. Reid Johnson suggested throwing balls into the fedora. Andy Opp suggested the use of a second whip. 

The Woodbury Middle School seventh grader is working on tweaking his choreography for inclusion in the middle school talent show. A loud and dangerous act isn’t preferable. 

After the spring show at Jugheads, Moore earned the Indiana Jones Award, as Arneberg called Moore “the best bullwhipper I’ve ever had.”

State fair hopeful

Moore auditioned Aug. 1 for the Minnesota State Fair Amateur Talent Contest. Believed to be the youngest bullwhipper to ever audition, Moore made a striking impression.

“Is it safe to come out?” the talent show emcee kidded on the microphone. “Boy, that’ll get your heart a-pumpin!’”

This week, Moore found out by letter that he didn’t move on to the semifinals. He still has the free T-shirt.

When the state fair comes around, though, Moore will be there. 

Each state fair opening day, his family joins the Arneberg and his family in St. Paul, where they always watch the talent show. They recommend watching Sean Emery, advertised as “a funny guy who juggles stuff.”

Moore knew that the field of talent trying to get into the state fair was deep and no one’s chances of making it were high. He is undeterred from practicing his passion.

“I should keep on doing it, because it’s fun and people like it,” Moore said.

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