(Juggle Jam 20 Program: Director’s Note)
Since virtually all aspects of JJ20 have throwback elements, I’ll start by quoting my JJ11 note: “I hope you truly enjoy both the frivolous and the fascinating elements that this show has to offer. Both extremes reflect how this company is sustained by God’s grace and continues to develop youth through juggling with the aim to change lives.”
My current newsletter column series looks back on 23 years of juggling productions (with three as the Wise Guys Jugglers, ‘95-‘97); this note picks up where I left off with JJs 11-15, our “Coaches & Champions” years. JJ16 represented yet another wonderful peak, and I was doubtful that the quality was sustainable. That was the final year for legendary grad-coach Kelvin Ying (‘07), and I refer to his JJ16 Elite routine set to West Side Story as “Mr. Kelvin’s Opus” due to the extraordinary way he incorporated juggling, dance, drama, and stage combat into an iconic musical of stage and screen.
Despite my fears when Kelvin left to pursue his classical music career, the Lord provided a new resident choreographer specialist, Betsy (Gaasedelen) Nelson, for JJ17. Her stage work is clearly seen in her 4th JJ: revising parts of “Rock This Town” (our staple since JJ1); reviving the Bollywood routine from JJ15 & IJA ‘13; and revamping “Defying Gravity” (JJ11) for our Act One finale. As for me, I’ve continued my Openers in JJs 16-20: Harold Hill, Tevye, George Washington, Beatnik Poet, and Obi-Wan.
Over the past five years, our company has adjusted to a new building, reduced rosters, and a smaller staff. We moved to St. Stephen’s Church in Edina right after JJ17; what we’ve lacked in ceiling height, we’ve gained in homeyness and storage space, allowing for much rat-packing of old costumes and precious artifacts from JJs gone by! We’ve seen a steady reduction in our rosters since JJ14 (from 140 Jugheads down to 90); reductions and dropouts are tough, to be sure, but I discern that our company has been mercifully reduced so my energy can be sustained as a 49-year-old youth director, while Wendy & I are still able to earn a living at this. As a means to that last goal, I’ve not hired new after school coaches after resignations in recent years. (Thank you to our most recent long-term coaches: Stefan, Chris, and Tom!)
Our final Slide Show song by Sara Groves testifies: “God has been faithful, He will be again. His loving compassion, it knows no end.” From the day I was interviewed in May 1992 to this show 26 years later, this been a calling, and leading / directing has been an act of faith, obedience and love. I testify to the grace of God who called me to youth work; called Wendy to give up her corporate career; and promised provision and fruit if we follow Him in all things. “All I have need of, His hand will provide.”
I believe you’ll be blessed by our show tonight. Thank you for supporting us from near and far: rookie & veteran families; long-time grads; stalwart double-deca-super-fan parents (e.g., Lovdals, Shlosbergs, Watsons, Yings, and dear Darcy); and Ron & Bonnie Arneberg and Dan & Tammi Moore, who have seen every show since 1995. Above all, after 25 years of marriage and 20 Juggle Jams, Wendy & I can both say with humble awe and thankfulness to God: “He’s always been faithful to me.”