Isaac Rockafellow’s passion for juggling extends beyond the typical toss and catch of balls. The University of Iowa junior also juggles clubs and rings, and he has even employed plungers.
“As long as [something is] fun to play around with, you can juggle it,” said Rockafellow, president of the UI’s juggling club, the UI Juggalos.
UI student Sarah Shires, a UI Juggalo member, appreciates Rockafellow encouraging club members to try new tricks with materials that are outside the box. Shires, for one, just mastered juggling three rings. Other materials used to perform tricks at club meetings include muffin tins, trombones, and 3D glasses.
“Every week, we try new things, and [Rockafellow] always tries to make something different — make a big production with lots of people,” Shires said.
Rockafellow joined UI Juggalos as a freshman, recruiting members from his dorm. Rockafellow could be seen juggling in the halls, and after those on his floor witnessed his talent, they wanted to learn the craft, too.
Rockafellow first started juggling at the age of 10, when his grandmother gave him a set of juggling balls. Ten years later, he hasn’t stopped.
In high school, Rockafellow made videos of his juggling routines at home. His father, Tim Rockafellow, said he is in the process of replacing the ceiling tiles in his living room because it was so scuffed from juggling.
The microbiology major even attended the International Jugglers Association Festival in Kentucky in 2008.
Though Rockafellow enjoyed performing in front of thousands of people at the festival, he doesn’t juggle to compete. Instead, he uses it as a form of meditation and relaxation.
“For me it was like an escape from school as opposed to a club that’s mandatory,” Shires said.
In addition to the relaxation it provides, Rockafellow sees juggling as an outlet that is creative, fun, and one that proves to be trying.
“It’s inherently a challenge,” Rockafellow said. “You are trying to control what seems to the average viewer as a big mess — it’s controlled chaos. And there are just infinite possibilities for creativity.”
In the future, Rockafellow hopes to perform in more public events with his club, and he plans to showcase the UI Juggalos during Night Games at the UI this spring.
On a personal level, Rockafellow wants to shift his focus from honing in his technical abilities to strengthening the quality of his juggling performances.
“I want to create new performances and competitions and find [tricks] that are more interesting than difficult,” he said.
Tim Rockafellow said he was proud of his son’s juggling accomplishments and his dedication to the practice.
“It’s been pretty amazing that [Isaac Rockafellow] can stick with juggling and just keep getting better,” Tim Rockafellow said. “He has a tremendous amount of self-discipline, which is really impressive.”