The Butterfly Man


There is a clever running joke in Benedikt Erofejev's satirical novel, Moscow--Petushki, about a Moscow alcoholic who is perpetually in search of Red Square but somehow can never seem to find it. I felt a little like Erofejev's peripatetic character when after two weeks of searching (for the second year in a row!) I could never seem to find Robert Nelson (a.k.a. The Butterfly Man). After all, everyone was talking about him; I was the the juggling critic so hmm. I'd already apologized for missing him last year. "Don't worry about it," he said in a moment of generosity, "You've seen the other acts at the festival? That's my material they're performing."

You can imagine my pleasure then when two nights before the end of the festival I actually saw the gleaming, tattooed dome just about to start up his show. I hit the dirt like a sack of cement. Low on razzle dazzle tricks and high on his own brand of abrasive humour The Butterfly Man in full flight is a joy to behold. No one is safe from his caustic wit. But, in contrast to what I had been lead to expect, there is charm and a warm twinkle of the eye behind the Butterfly Man's blustering.

He performs a torch routine with solid chops and doubles and sporadic behind the back and under the leg throws. This leads into a fire eating routine with a couple of fine gags. His cigar box routine has some skilful and original moves with a round the world, a clever 3 box stack to 3 box line beginning and 180 rotations of the boxes on the horizontal axis. His concluding ball routine moves frequently between 3 and 4 balls and finishes with a 5 ball split multiplex and reverse cascade. Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.


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