Flying Dutchmen:
Pirates of the Streets!

Photo of The Flying

Amsterdam's Michiel Hesseling is a Mozart of his profession. Only twenty he started juggling six years ago and already he is a world-calibre performer. He juggles five balls with virtuosity, seven capably and five clubs with numerous flawless variations. What he does with three clubs is pure visual poetry. Perhaps only a fellow juggler can appreciate the awesome difficulty of some of the maneuvers he seems to perform with effortless ease. He incarnates the juggler's dream of making objects dance on their fingertips.

I catch him in a pensive mood, brooding on career, future, love and life: "I know I could make more money and become more famous if I got my act together and joined a circus or started performing the clubs or on the cruise ships, but you know, being a busker is hard enough. At least this way, you're your own boss. When you get bored you pack up and move -- and I get bored easily," he says flashing his Mick Jagger smile.

His new partner in The Flying Dutchmen is Jean-Michel Paré, a flamboyant unicyclist who, evidence to the contrary, continually claims not to know how to juggle. Paré, one of the few people who can free-mount (i.e. climb up unassisted) a three meter 'giraffe' unicycle, also epitomizes the footloose life of the professional busker. Born in Quebec City he calls Toronto home although his girlfriend is from Los Angeles and he is currently living in Munich having returned from Japan with his Amsterdam-ba sed partner -- whew, where does he pick up his mail?

Paré is a unicyclist extraordinaire who constantly claims not to know how to juggle. "You wrote that I dropped a lot," he says buttonholing me at a reception. "Jean-Michel!" I protest, "I only said you dropped a lot trying to pass eight clubs!"

"Well," he adds with the widest smile to be seen in Halifax, "This year you can write that I don't drop at all -- that's because I don't juggle!"

Argyle Street -- 8:00 P.M. -- Hesseling & Paré in goofy matching suits clowning around. Hessling picks things up and juggles them absent-mindedly, doing tricks that I would give my eye teeth to be able to perform. He seems to forget about a club that spins endlessly on the fingers of his left hand. They start their routine and Hessling opens with 5 balls doing half-showers, reverse cascades, head rolls, high throws and his patented hand-crossing cascade. Non-juggler Paré tries to upstage him and does a fiv e ball reverse bounce -- no drops. Hesseling continues with 7 balls and Paré, responding to the challenge, tries to reverse bounce 7 bean bags -- nothing but drops.

Photo of The Flying
Dutchmen They then fire a cigarette out of a girl's mouth showering 6 clubs and then launch into a routine which begins with synchronized tricks. Paré wisely vamps Hesseling's solid back-crosses on doubles but gamely keeps pace with everything else -- hardly any drops. They then cut into a passing routine with Paré playing the straight man to Hesseling's remarkable assemblage of throws with every kind of over-the-head, round-the-back, behind-the-leg and across-the-arms chops you've ever dreamt of, combined with all kinds of doubles and triples and pirouettes. They finish with Hesseling taking 5 clubs from a shower straight into a 5 club cascade. Did my eyes bulge -- only choreographed drops!

Paré shows off some of his virtuoso unicycle technique with wheel-walking, one leg riding, a 180 degree spin of the unicycle underneath him (i.e. while he is in the air!) mounts from a regular unicycle to a 6 footer and then to a 9 footer with a finale free-mount of the latter beast. Hot stuff!

Get in touch with Michiel Hesseling.

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