Exploring the history, essence, and cosmic connections of juggling in ‘Reflex’ at NYC’s Baruch PAC

With a mission of “blurring the lines between circus, dance, and theater,” Hideaway Circus – a Brooklyn-based multi-media producing company founded and run by Josh and Lyndsay Aviner – seamlessly achieves its goal with Reflex, an enthralling performance by world-renowned juggler and visual artist Jay Gilligan that explores the intricacies of object manipulation, physics, and cosmic connections. Raised in Ohio and a resident of Sweden, the phenomenal Gilligan has performed in 38 countries and has been awarded the most gold medals ever in the history of the International Jugglers’ Association. It’s obvious why.

Jay Gilligan. Photo by Aidan Gibney.

Written by Gilligan and Frodo Santini, who co-directs with Lyndsay Aviner, the current show, which will tour the US in November after this month’s engagement at NYC’s Baruch Performing Arts Center, combines amazing segments of juggling, both traditional and innovative, with fascinating stories about Gilligan’s 35-year career, the evolution of the ancient art, and the inspiration of human space exploration, the Voyager Mission, and Carl Sagan; imaginative juggling props and balls (designed respectively by Drew Aslesen and Ivar Heckscher); new and familiar machines that expand the repertoire; and a transporting soundscape (original music by Book Kennison), lighting (by Kyle Driggs), and projections, coordinated with the content and rhythm. It’s all delivered by Gilligan with the perfect balance of his naturally amiable personality and rapport with the audience, extraordinary focus and precision, and supreme knowledge, mastery, and love of his craft.

Jay Gilligan. Photo by Aidan Gibney.

Dressed in casual clothes and addressing the audience directly, Gilligan begins by explaining and demonstrating the essential ingredients of juggling, while joking and interacting with us, sharing behind-the-scenes information, and creating an up-close theatrical experience that is equally informative, intimate, unique, and astonishing. He then continues to up the skill, difficulty, and risk of his act, juggling and balancing clubs, balls, rings, rods, yarn, and multi-wrapped bundles that continuously unravel and sparkle, increasing their numbers and his speed (near the end of the show, he switches rapidly from one to the next without a pause), and employing a fan, percussion and reverb instruments, and other unexpected items that make for a totally surprising, breath-taking, and singular performance.

Jay Gilligan. Photo by Aidan Gibney.

The program is interspersed throughout with his illuminating commentary and humorous observations, and enhanced with NASA voiceovers that tie juggling to the laws and mysteries of the greater universe, which “might make sense in a million years.” It’s a provocative thought that will leave you pondering the time-space continuum and the construct of gravity, and wondering how he does any of these very demanding acts with such fluidity, grace, facility, and apparent ease.

Jay Gilligan. Photo by Aidan Gibney.

While most audiences are accustomed to seeing juggling as one brief segment of a circus show (or historically, in the Middle Ages, as one of several elements, including flips, flute-playing, and magic, presented by a solo entertainer), Jay Gilligan’s full-hour one-man performance is that much more impressive for his extensive variety, originality, and unrelenting skill and stamina, as it is for his gracious affability. I highly recommend being welcomed, stunned, and enlightened by this extraordinary artist, so get your tickets for Reflex while you can.

Running Time: Approximately 65 minutes, without intermission.

Reflex plays through Sunday, November 19, 2023, at Hideaway Circus, performing at Baruch Performing Arts Center, Nagelberg Theatre, One Bernard Baruch Way (25th Street, between Lexington and 3rd Avenue), NYC. For tickets (priced at $40 plus fees; $20 for Baruch students and staff with valid ID), go online.

Before you go, you can watch a trailer of the performance below:


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