Shaker Cups

Sling posted this about his favorite prop, Shaker Cups. He is actively seeking comments on this subject, in preparation for a larger shaker cups JIS help page.


1. What the heck are they?

Shaker cups, also called nesting cups are juggling props that bear the same resemblance to bartending cocktail shaker cups as juggling clubs do to bowling pins. Cocktail shaker cups are metal cups about ten inches high which fit over highball-type glasses, enabling the bartender to shake a drink. (See Cocktail, with Tom Cruise.) Shaker cups designed specifically for juggling are heavier, and have some sort of spacing mechanism to keep them from sticking when you catch one inside another.

2. Why would anyone want to juggle them?

First of all, they're way cooler than the diabolo or devil sticks. Second, hardly anyone else uses 'em, and third,

- they're LOUD!!!

This last point is both their biggest asset, and biggest drawback. Unlike clubs and balls, which only make a lot of noise when you accidentally hit something you weren't supposed to, shaker cups are just inherently noisy. Drop 'em, and they make a lot of noise. Catch 'em like you're supposed to, and they make a lot of noise. This is a definite drawback if you want to practice in your apartment, but in a performance environment, it's a good thing.

3. Where can I get them?

As far as I know, there are three manufacturers. Dubé, Jenack, and Juggling Arts.

The Dube cups are taller and narrower than the other manufacturers, which makes them more similar to real cocktail shaker cups. It also makes it harder to do several moves, especially throwing two or more cups from another cup. They are also made of aluminum, which rubs off on your hands, and leaves the cups looking dull and defeated in no time at all.

The Jenack cups are wider and shorter, which makes some tricks decidedly easier. Unfortunately they too are made of aluminum, and although I can't speak from personal experience, they don't hold up as well as they should.

The Juggling Arts shaker cups are similar to the Jenack cups in shape, but are made from a metal alloy, which holds up much better. These cups haven't been on the market for as long as the other two, so I guess the jury is still out, but they're clearly the best of the three. The also cost more, but if you start out with aluminum cups, you'll end up rebuying them, or getting alloy cups eventually. Plus, Dick Franco is now using these cups, so who needs my endorsement?

Crude Ascii representations of shaker cups:

      ________             _____________
     |        |            \           /
     |        |             \         /
      |      |               \       /
      |      |                \     /
       |    |                  -----
       Dube                   Jenack, Juggling Arts

Rob Stone notes that "Beard also makes them for 10 quid a piece. They have a crude weight and bolt construction for weights/balance; no idea about there shape in comparison to above".

4. Basic Moves and Terminology

Hold two cups in your right hand, one nested inside the other. Think of the hand help cup as an extension of your hand. Toss the second cup straight up. You can do single or double spins (or more if you feel the need). This is the basic TOSS. You can toss the cup to the same, hand, or to your other hand, which can also contain a cup.

With three cups in your right hand, use your index finger to hold back the second cup. Toss the third cup. This is known as the HOLD-BACK.

Again, with three cups in your right hand, throw both the second and third cups simultaneously, retaining the first cup in your hand. This is a MULTIPLEX, and the basis for most of the good stuff. You can multiplex two cups, catching one in the left hand and one in the right, both in the left or both in the right.

If you're real good, you can throw all three cups from your right hand, and not retain any.

Taking these basic moves, and combining them with body throws (under the leg, behind the back, etc.) and different catching positions (inverted hands, arm around back, etc.) will form the basis of both a routine, and an eviction notice. (Remember the noise?!)

5. Literature on Shaker Cups

Shaker cups, being a much neglected prop, are not covered in most juggling books, with the following exception(s):

Manipulative Miscellanae, by Reg Bacon.

6. Video footage of Shaker Cups

IJA videos:

1991 St. Louis Championships:
Tuey Wilson does a 3 shaker cup routine in the individual championships. Lots of inverted hand catches and throws.
1993 Fargo Highlights Video:
Dan Holzman does 3, 4, and 6 shaker cups in the Public show. Dan makes it look too easy, not dropping nearly enough. Also gets his 6 cup finale on the first try, a definite no-no.

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