This is a fictional interview about Verena's career and education. It consists of questions she is frequently asked and other interesting facts she thought you might enjoy.
How did you start juggling?
As a teenager I went to a holiday youth camp every year and one year it was circus themed. I was mind-blown and couldn’t stop practising. After the holiday camp I researched where I could continue training circus skills, and that’s how I found the Jugendkunstschule Nürtingen (Youth Arts School Nürtingen) where I started doing weekly classes with Doro Brandstetter. As I got better I discovered that I really liked being on stage. I had already done a lot of performances at juggling conventions and family gatherings so I decided to make a career out of it.
What is your professional education?
My circus education started with the Jugendkunstschule, of course. While I was there, I also started going to juggling conventions to hone my skills through workshops and meet other jugglers. This and years and years of training by myself were my foundation. For a short but very intense training period I went to the circus school of Gävle, Sweden, where I was trained for my job at 2Entertain. This course was focused on drama lessons, clowning, stage presence and choreography.
As for my formal education, this is also routed in my enthusiasm for juggling. After my A-levels I began studying to be a multilungual management assistant (Europasekretärin) because I was interested in seeing the world and learning multiple languages. Since I really liked organising juggling conventions, I then continued my university education with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Hospitality, Tourism and Events Management at Plymouth University. Finally, I did another degree in Business Administration at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences to cover the whole business side of being a freelancer. This way, all the non-artistic tasks that my job requires come naturally and I enjoy being able to run the complete cycle of my little business: from the offer and marketing, to the performances themselves, to doing the accounting, taxes and contracts.
I still go to as many conventions as my calendar allows to keep in touch with the juggling scene. This is where my roots are and where I never cease to find inspiration and a platform for skill sharing and learning. On a European level, I try to visit the annual EJC – European Juggling Convention.
What do you think is special about your job?
Definitely the versatility of being a freelance performer! I get to meet a lot of people, travel to different places and events – from small and almost intimate family celebrations to huge festivals. It is always exciting and always new. Another important aspect for me is setting my own goals and working towards them. I’m free in my creative choices and can set all the parameters, whether it is using this of that prop, learning this or that trick, or deciding how a costume or show will be designed – I have control over which ideas to implement and work on. Seeing, then, that my ideas are welcomed and liked is not only confirmation of what I’m doing, but also motivation to keep developing new shows, costumes and stage acts.
What has been your biggest performance up to now?
Actually, there are several. The bigget audience was in 2012, when I was part of the Knights Tournament and arena show in Kaltenberg. That open air theatre could fit 18.500 people in there, so it was just huge on the sold-out nights.
However, back then I was only a minor detail in the show with several other fire performers. My biggest solo gigs were at the Kulturbühne (Culture Stage) of Das Fest Karlsruhe in 2016 and 2018 – once with my fire show and once with LED. Each night, there were several thousand people watching, I couldn’t tell exactly how many. Then there was a huge company summer festival for their employees and families. I was booked as a juggling trainer. Together with a team of performers and circus teachers, we spend almost seven hours teaching kids and their families to juggle, walk the tightrope, balance on a rola bola and more. There were over 30.000 people on-site. Of course, not all of them visited our stall but it was still overwelmingly huge.
What was your most exotic performance venue or stage?
The first thing I'm thinking of is a gig from this year: I often play gigs in sauna and spa places. Among those was the Schwabenquellen Stuttgart. They always have their show acts on a 2 x 2 metres stage in the middle of their main pool. This was quite a challenge for me since the area of 4 m² is really small for a juggling act and also, I could not drop into the water of course, otherwise the balls and clubs would have been wet and nearly impossible to juggle. It went really well and I was very relieved. From the audience point of view it must have looked stunning. The whole place is just beautiful and has a wonderful atmosphere.
What was the most peculiar moment at an event?
Once I was commissioned to do a show for blind people. What sounds odd at first, turned out to be a great thing: the company who had booked me produces specialized devices that enable blind people to see at least some light. So my LED and fire performance was one of the very few artistic performances they could enjoy and they were really touched and enthusiastic on that evening.
Then there was a wedding that I’ll never forget. I was booked for a fire show and at the end there is always the finale with the newlyweds standing behind the flaming heart for all the others to take pictures. For this, I ask them for a song they want to hear during this finale, and this couple had chosen “I will always love you” by Whitney Houston. All of their guests apparently loved the song too, because they all started singing and went through it until the end of the song. No matter how off-key, they sang loudly and proudly and had a blast.
What is everyday life like as a freelance performer?
That is different from day to day but of course, there are some things I do a lot: sitting at the computer for the business part of my job for example. That is stuff like writing offers, invoices, working on the website, editing videos and so on. The other thing I do on a daily basis is training. Not only do I practice juggling, I also try to stay in shape for my performances, since I need a lot of energy there. My main exercise these days is Zumba because it’s such a fun and engaging combination of endurance, cardio, flexibility and dance.
On some days, I’m working intensely on a new project, like sewing a new costume. This is time-consuming and I might end up not doing a lot of other things besides that for several days. Then of course, I have performance days: when there is a show coming up in the evening I start with the final preparations right after breakfast. I pack my costumes, check everything for damages and prepare other little things.
And finally, there are all the little tasks that people don’t think of right away when they imagine what life as a performer is like. That might be washing costumes (mostly hand-washing), cleaning make-up brushes, repairing props and the most time-consuming of all: researching music for a new stage act.
What would have been your career if you hadn’t become a performer?
I probably would have stayed an events manager because I was excited about planning and coordinating events since the first juggling convention I organized in 2006. I like having an overview and writing check-lists. Maybe one day I will do more events organizing than performing, you never know. For now, I’m content with being a performer and enjoying the feeling of being on stage.