IJA Stage Competitions

Official Rules

Februrary 1996

Table of Contents

International Jugglers Association

Stage Juggling Competitions


Championships Director: Arthur Lewbel


The IJA stage juggling competitions are held every year during the IJA's large annual Summer juggling festival. Tickets for the final round of competitions will be sold to the public. The time and place of the preliminary and final rounds of competitions will be announced at the IJA festival. Preliminary rounds are not open to the public.


PRIZES: In recent past competitions, $4000 in prize money has been awarded as described below. The exact amount of prize money offered this year will likely be the same. Additional prizes may also be awarded. Winners will also be presented with medals, and the Individuals Gold medal winner will receive a trophy.

                       INDIVIDUALS  TEAMS    JUNIORS
  1st place (Gold)        $1000     $1000      $250
  2nd place (Silver)        500       500       125
  3rd place (Bronze)        250       250        75


To enter the stage juggling competitions you must register sometime during the first two days of the festival. Entry fees are $10 for each event, which must be paid at the time of registration (for teams, this is $10 per team, not $10 per team member).


The IJA stage competitions consist of three events: 1. The Individuals, for solo juggling routines, 2. The Teams, for routines involving two or more jugglers, and 3. The Juniors, for solo juggling routines by jugglers under 18 years old.


IJA competitions are open to all, regardless of race, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, age, etc.,. The only exception is that entrants in the Juniors event must be under 18 years old, and have not qualified for or competed in the Individuals event in past IJA competitions. No one may enter both the Individuals and Juniors event in the same year. No one person may enter as a member of more than one team in any year. People are allowed to compete in the same year both as a member of a team and as a Junior or Individuals entrant. Entrants should join the IJA if they are not already members.


All juniors performances must be under 7 minutes long. All Individuals and teams performance must be under 8 minutes long.


Stage juggling routines are judged on the basis of juggling technique and (to a slightly lesser extent) performance attributes. Technique measures the degree of difficulty and risk of drops of juggling tricks, and the variety, originality, and execution of the juggling. Performance measures how well the competitor's presentation enhances the juggling. Performance attributes include stage presentation, characterization, routining, choreography, costume, music, voice, or other accompaniment, and overall artistry.

Note: This document describes only the IJA stage competitions. Other IJA sponsored competitions include Numbers Juggling competitions and Joggling races, which are run by different directors.


Founded in 1947, the International Jugglers' Association (IJA) is a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation uniquely dedicated to the advancement and promotion of juggling worldwide. The membership of the IJA is a blend of professionals, hobbyists, prop designers, athletes and beginning jugglers. The IJA is pledged to "render assistance to fellow jugglers, and to provide education and services to all who share a love of juggling."

The IJA Championships are held annually at the IJA's Annual Festival, and provide an opportunity for jugglers to compete in stage presentations, numbers juggling, and joggling. Though there are circus and variety competitions where jugglers can compete, measured against varied disciplines in the entertainment arts, the IJA Championships are the only competitions in the world focused exclusively on the art and sport of juggling. Rules are drafted by the Championships Committee and are submitted to the IJA Board of Directors for approval.

The IJA Championships are serious performance and athletic presentations for the advancement of professional juggling and are not a forum for demonstrations, sales promotions, practical jokes or political statements.


The goals of the IJA Championships are:


To enter the stage juggling competitions you must register at the Championships table during the Juggling Festival. Registrations for stage events is generally only open for the first two days of the festival. All entry fees must be paid at the time of registration. Names of stage event registrants will NOT be released to the public or to other entrants until after registration is closed.

All competitors must sign the IJA championships video release and liability waiver at the time of registration, and will not be allowed to compete without having signed the waiver. Competitors under age 18 must have a parent or guardian sign for them.

Payment of entry fees only entitles a competitor to enter the preliminaries. No additional fee is charged for those who advance to the finals. All fees are non refundable. Competitors should be IJA members. Any money winners who are found to not be members may have membership fees deducted from their prize.


Individuals, Teams, and Juniors


The IJA Stage Championships are for the presentation of juggling as both a skill and an art. The choice of props and the style of manipulation is unlimited, but the focus of the act must be juggling. Juggling is generally defined as keeping one or more objects in motion by tossing, catching, or carrying, or balancing objects precariously. Other skills, such as acrobatics, singing, dancing, unicycling, joke telling, magic, mime, musicianship etc. will be counted in so far as they directly enhance the overall performance aspect of the routine or to the extent to which these non-juggling skills, when combined with juggling, increase the difficulty or riskiness of the juggling.

Competitors are to have a prepared, polished juggling routine, running within the time limits of the competition, with few drops.

Competitors are expected to behave in a professional manner, and to inform the Championships Director beforehand of any unusual demands or problems with a routine. Professional practices include knowing the rules, abiding by the schedule, being on time for all registrations, preliminaries, rehearsals, performances and awards ceremonies, respecting the rights of others and conducting oneself in a gracious manner.


The Championships Staff is appointed by and serves at the discretion of the Board of Directors of the IJA. All concerns and questions of consequence regarding a specific preliminary or finals event should be addressed to the Championships Director or to an individual designated by the Championships Director, and not to an individual judge or other IJA Staff person. Decisions of the Championships Director in all matters regarding the championships are final.


In the event that any rule listed here is violated, either by a competitor or by any one else associated with the competitions, the appropriate action to be taken will be decided exclusively by the Championships Director. The Championships Director will also decide the outcome of any dispute that may arise concerning either interpretation of these rules or circumstances that may arise that are not covered by these rules. Decisions of the Championships Director in these matters are final.


A competitor may be disqualified by the Championships Director if they fail to abide by these rules, perform in a manner that jeopardizes the safety of the audience or staff, compromises the professional standards of the championships, or performs material that is judged to be dangerous, obscene, profane, overtly political, or offensive to a typical family audience (if the act were a movie it should be G rated). Harassment of other competitors or any other behavior that is rude, inappropriate, or materially affects the operation of the competitions in an adverse way will be considered grounds for disqualification. The IJA Board of Directors will review all incidents of this nature, and may recommend further disciplinary action.


Judges are selected by the Championships Director from the membership of the IJA. Judges are selected for their knowledge of the skill and art of stage performance juggling and for their familiarity with IJA juggling competitions. Judges need not be professional jugglers, but may be historians, coaches, prop makers or in other ways intimately acquainted with juggling. Judges may not be "celebrity guests" or honorees. Judges may not have a personal relationship with any competitor that would prejudice their decision.

Preliminary events will have three judges. Finals will have five judges. One judge in each event will be designated as the head judge. The head judge moderates the judges discussion, and resolves ties and disputes among judges.


Preliminary competitions for stage events will be held to determine the running order of the finals, to limit the number of finalists if necessary, and most importantly, to ensure that all finalists have acts that display a sufficiently high level of quality and professionalism, as defined by the judging criteria described below.

Either the Championships Director or a moderator designated by the Championships Director will be present during the preliminaries to resolve any problems that may arise. The Championships Director, moderator, or preliminary judges can stop a preliminary performance at any time, though a good reason should be provided for doing so.

Everyone entering a competition must go through preliminaries, even past event winners. Each competitor is judged solely on the basis of their routine and performance, and is not based on past successes or failures. It is possible for even a past gold medal winner to have a routine this time that, for whatever reason, is judged to be inadequate for the finals. Regardless of how good a juggler someone is known to be, the purpose of the preliminaries is to judge routines, not people.


A mandatory meeting of competitors will be conducted by the Championships Director after registration closes and before the preliminary competitions are held to answer questions and discuss procedures. All competitors must attend this meeting. A hat draw conducted at this time will determine the running order of the preliminaries. Competitors are expected to be on time and ready to perform. Lateness for the preliminaries will be considered grounds for disqualification.


Preliminaries will be judged using the same criteria as the finals. During and immediately following the preliminary round the preliminary judges will decide which acts qualify for the finals. The list of finalists will be posted publicly.

The preliminary judges are asked to be able to tell any non-finalist, upon request of that competitor, what aspects of their act could be improved to bring their work up to competition standards. Finalists will not be given any critique or feedback by any judge until after the final competition event, and then only at the request of the competitor.

In rare cases, the preliminary judges may choose to qualify an entrant for an event other than the one entered. For example, the judges may decide that a Juniors entrant had a sufficiently good routine to qualify for the Individuals event.


Competitors must perform the same (or nearly the same) routine in the preliminary and final rounds.

Preliminaries are not open to the public. Preliminaries are closed to all spectators, including all family members and other competitors. Each competitor is permitted to bring up to two prop assistants as described below.

Judges may, at their discretion, choose to qualify an act for the finals that violates competition rules, provided that the routine can be edited with little change for the finals to bring it in compliance of the rules. For example, the judges might qualify an act that is slightly too long if it can be shortened with little change. Similarly, a routine that is significantly affected by the actions of prop assistants may be qualified if the role of the assistants can be easily reduced.


Competitors who advance to the finals must attend rehearsal to review all procedures and inspect the performance space.

Competitors must make their technical requirements, such as sound and light cues, known to the Championships Director, who will be responsible for communication with the IJA stage competitions Producer and Stage Manager.

The competitor is solely responsible for any errors resulting from a lack of communication with the Championships Director or staff, including errors that interfere with the competitors performance and/or adversely affect the judging of that competitors routine.


At the same time that preliminary judges choose which acts qualify for the finals, they will also determine the running order of the finals. The running order will be made public at the same time that the list of finalists is announced.


Due to insurance requirements and to ensure professionalism absolutely NO ONE is allowed back stage during technical set up, tech rehearsal, dress rehearsal, final performance or post performance except competitors, their assistants, IJA Championships Staff, production staff, site technicians, performers and other authorized personnel. Security passes are required for all personnel permitted backstage.


A competitor may have up to two prop assistants. If a competitor requires prop assistants and cannot provide their own, they must inform the Stage Manager who will assign them technicians.

Prop assistants may not perform, interfere with or substantially enhance a competition routine. An assistant that is in costume and hands or tosses props to the competitor would be permitted, while an assistant that told jokes or juggled would not be allowed.


Live or prerecorded music or other sound is permitted. Prerecorded music or sound must be on tape.

Competitors must provide their own tapes or musicians.

Tapes must be cued and ready to go. Competitors should provide two cued copies of routine tapes. Tapes should be clearly marked with the competition, the name of the act, and the side to be played. Single tapes are preferred to multiple tapes, but if multiple tapes are used they should be numbered in the order to be played. If a competitor meets these conditions and the wrong tape is played, the competitor may at the time of the error request that the act be restarted from the point that the error occurred, or they can wait on stage for the correct tape to be played, without being penalized for the time involved with the error.

It is strongly recommended that prerecorded music be at least 15 to 30 seconds shorter than the permitted length of routines in your event, to allow for the possibility that the facility tape deck may run at a different speed from the competitor's own tape player, and to allow for some margin of error in time required to complete the routine.


To reduce delays in the competitions and minimize the time between performances, all acts must require less than two minutes to set up, starting from an empty stage. It should also require no more than two minutes to completely clear the stage after the act is complete. Take these time limits into account when planning any elaborate sets or messy performances.

Any unique entrances, exits, props, intentional drops etc. must be discussed with the Championships Director before the competitions begin. Providing special effects, such as strobe, fog, explosives, flourescents, black lights etc. are the responsibility of the competitor. All special effects must be cleared with the Championships Director and the facility stage manager.

The IJA will endeavor to provide a high quality stage for the competitions, but no explicit guarantees are made concerning characteristics of the performance area. For example, competitors are advised to provide their own "bounce slabs" for technical bounce tricks, and be prepared to cope with possibly adverse lighting conditions or uneven ceiling heights.

No object may be intentionally juggled in an unsafe manner or thrown or kicked off the front of the stage.

No acts involving fire in any way are permitted.

No acts that damage the performance area in any way are permitted. For example, knives cannot be thrown into the stage floor.

Judges, audience members, and all backstage personnel except those directly involved with an act may not engage in any behavior that could materially affect an act, other than applauding or otherwise expressing approval in appropriate ways at appropriate times.

The Championships Director reserves the right to veto any prop or portion of a routine that may jeopardize the professionalism of the championships or the safety or property of the audience, the championships personnel, or the theater.


There is a maximum time limit for routines (see time limits). All acts will be timed both by a Timekeeper and his or her assistant. An act begins when the performer is first seen moving, or when music or speech is first heard (whichever occurs first marks the start of time allowed for the act). The act ends when the performer takes the final bow or acknowledges applause in any other way for the last time. Encore bows or audience acknowledgements are not included in the performance time. Competitors must inform the Championships Director and the Timekeeper if the routine does not end on an obvious cue.

If an act goes overtime by more than 15 seconds (as measured by both the Timekeeper and his or her assistant) the Timekeeper will loudly announce "TIME!" The judges will discount any trick, finale, or action executed after "TIME" is announced.

If an act runs 30 seconds after "TIME" has been announced, the performance may be abruptly terminated by the Championships Director.

No formal penalties are mandated for running over time, but running over time will have a serious adverse effect on the judges scoring of the entire performance.

See also the comments above concerning prerecorded music, tapes, and timing.


The focus of the routine must be juggling as defined in the introduction. As this is a juggling competition, not a variety entertainment contest, juggling technique has more weight (60%) than other considerations (40%) in the judges scoring of acts. The goal is to present an enjoyable, high quality juggling routine with very few drops or mistakes.

The following is the list of criteria that judges consider when evaluating acts. One general rule is that having more than a small number of drops and mistakes will substantially reduce both technique and performance scores.


Technique measures the degree of difficulty and risk of drops of juggling tricks, the variety of tricks, originality and execution. See the introduction for a general definition of what constitutes juggling.

Degree of Difficulty: Considers the difficulty of the juggling. The difficulty is determined by the type and number of objects juggled, the speed of the juggling, the types of throws, catches, balances or other object manipulations, the complexity of combinations of juggling tricks, and the transitions between juggling tricks. If an act includes non-juggling skills, then the extent to which these other skills make the juggling more difficult will be considered in evaluating the degree of difficulty of the juggling. The difficulty of the nonjuggling skills themselves does not count toward the technique score. For example, juggling on a unicycle adds to difficulty relative to juggling the same trick on the ground, but doing a backflip between juggling tricks does not add to the difficulty of juggling score (though it may help the performance scores).

Risk of drops and errors: Refers both to the chance of a drop or mistake and to the difficulty of cleanly recovering from a drop or mistake. Some examples: Toss juggling more objects is riskier than fewer objects, more jugglers doing the same number of objects per juggler is riskier than fewer jugglers, toss juggling is generally riskier than club swinging or ball spinning, blind catches are generally riskier than ordinary catches, and juggling on a tall unicycle is riskier than performing the same trick on a short unicycle (since it makes clean recoveries from drops more difficult). Risky tricks that are successfully completed get higher technique scores than safer tricks of equal difficulty.

Variety of Tricks: Includes different types of tricks, varying numbers of objects juggled, variety of props, and variety of juggling skills. Other things equal, acts that show a variety of juggling skills will get higher technique scores than acts that only demonstrate proficiency at one juggling skill or prop.

Originality: Includes innovative design of tricks and of transitions between tricks, extensions of standard tricks and the creative use of props, and the originality of props. Originality is a very important component of the overall score.

Execution: Measures how well the routine is performed and how successfully the tricks are executed. This takes into account drops, bobbles, smoothness, perfection, control and finesse. If a competitor has no drops but executes the routine in a stiff way the score will be somewhat lower than had the performance been graceful. Drops should be very rare, however, the smooth recovery from a drop reduces the severity of the error.


Performance measures how well the competitor's presentation enhances the juggling. Performance includes stage presentation, characterization, routining, choreography, costume, sound, and overall artistry.

Stage Presentation and Characterization: This includes those qualities of charm, warmth, confidence, appeal, audience connection and charisma that support the performers stage persona.

Routining and Choreography: This includes originality, transitions between and sequencing of tricks and props, dance or other movement, physical use of the stage, and the relationship of movement and juggling to the music, voice, or other sound accompaniment.

Costume and Sound: This includes consistency and appropriateness of wardrobe and props to the performer's character and routine. Styling, condition of props, prop stands, assistants costumes and the overall appearance of everything seen on stage are considered. Music or other sound accompaniment must be well recorded and smoothly spliced (or, if live, spoken clearly or performed well) and relate to the character and design of the routine.

Artistry: This is the extent to which the juggling is enhanced by dramatics, originality, physical comedy, mime, dance, and the overall creativity of the routine.

Additional judging criteria for Teams competitions: Teams competitions should involve significant juggling and performance interactions among the team members. Significant interactions would include any kind of passing or exchanging of props among members, as well as simultaneous or coordinated juggling among members. All members of the team should juggle significantly, e.g., a team act in which one member primarily juggled while another primarily did clowning or played music would not be scored as highly as one where both members juggled together in some way. This does not rule out having one member play music or clown for part of the act to contribute to the act's performance (though not technique) score.


The main features of a finals routine are:

  1. A clean, well polished, professional act with ideally no drops.
  2. Demonstrated confidence, practice and technical excellence.
  3. Focus on juggling. Non-juggling skills must enhance the juggling.
  4. Good production design: appropriate costumes, clean props, quality sound, suitable prop stand and set.
  5. Music, patter, or other sound accompaniment, if appropriate.
  6. The routine must work well in a competitive setting, be entertaining, impressive, and suitable for a family audience.
  7. Routines should meet the standards set by previous champions.
  8. Teams acts should involve significant juggling interactions among team members.


The Modified Ordinal System will be used and implemented as follows: As each competitor presents their routines, judges rank each act in comparison to the previous acts. Acts are compared against the other entrants, rather than against an absolute scoring standard. Immediately after the completion of the last act in an event, the following procedure is employed:

  1. The judges adjourn to a private room backstage. No one is permitted in this room except the judges and the Championships Director.
  2. Judges first discuss the acts with each other. All discussions are moderated by the head judge, or by someone designated by the head judge.
  3. Each judge separately ranks the acts, assigning to the competitors the scores: best act = 1, next best = 2, etc.,. Recall in making these overall rankings that the weighting of technique to presentation is 60% versus %40.
  4. The head judge (or someone he or she designates) sums the scores that each judge assigned to each act. The sums are announced to the judges.
  5. The judges have a second opportunity to discuss the acts, and can change their rankings in step 3 if they see fit.
  6. Step 4 is repeated. The first place act is then the act with the lowest sum. Second place is the second lowest sum, and third place is the third lowest sum. Ties are resolved by the head judge.


First place: gold medal Second place: silver medal Third place: bronze medal. Certificates will be awarded to all entrants that qualify for the finals. Cash and other prizes may also be awarded. Since judges rank the competitors, there will be no ties. The announced prize money for teams is to be shared among the team members, for example, an announced prize of $500 for a team act means that the team receives $500, not that each team member receives $500.

If only two entrants qualify for the finals in any event, then no third place medal or third place prize money will be awarded in that event. If only one entrant qualifies for the finals in any event, then that entrant wins the gold medal and associated prizes, and no second or third place medals and prizes are awarded in that event. Whether that entrant must present the act during the finals competition is left to the discretion of the Championships Director.

The IJA, its affiliates, and other groups of IJA members often sponsor awards in addition to the Stage competition medals. Examples are the Founder's award and the People's Choice awards. Stage competition entrants are eligible to (and frequently do) win one or more of these awards, in addition to whatever other medals they may win in the Stage competitions.

For More Information

Questions or comments concerning these rules should be addressed to:

IJA Championships Director
Arthur Lewbel
3 Audubon Road
Lexington, MA 02173, USA

Phone: (617)-736-2258
FAX: (617)-736-2263
E-mail: Lewbel@binah.cc.brandeis.edu

IJA Stage Competition Rules / Juggling Information Service / jis@juggling.org
© 1996 Juggling Information Service. All Rights Reserved.