World's First SkillCon Brought Together a Variety of Skill Experts
Author: Mark Hayward
A new convention combines competitions for multiple skill manipulations with costume play, gaming, and shows.
Originally posted on circustalk.com
In 2003, Jason Garfield, founded the World Juggling Federation to foster and promote competitive technical juggling. Since then, he's been producing live events and televised sport-juggling competitions. Last month, the WJF invited world-class object manipulators to compete in over 20 different skill events at the world's first SkillCon, highlights from which will soon appear on ESPN International. The eight-day event was designed as a "convergence of skills." Featured activities included multiple competitions, exhibitions, panels, workshops, keynote speakers, seminars, esports, and cosplay.
I was there because I was hired to MC the Las Vegas Open Yo-yo Championship. Whenever there is a well-organized contest, yo-yo players show up. It's one of the best things about the community. Kendama players were also there in force, as were a good number of jugglers and enough representatives from other groups to run all the contests.
Before arriving in Las Vegas, I was concerned that SkillCon was going to have too many different things going on, but it actually worked out really well. No matter how obscure your niche is, there was always someone with a more obscure one, and that led to a lot of mind-opening fun. In fact, SkillCon was awesome. You really missed out.
My background is in juggling and yo-yoing, and those contests did not disappoint. Many of the top yo-yo players and jugglers in the world were there, and the competitions were outstanding. Ky Zizan won the yo-yo open with one of the best freestyles I've ever seen. The sheer volume of juggling skill was astounding. Everywhere you looked was one of the best jugglers in the world.
In addition to the yo-yoing and juggling, the convention hosted competitions in dodgeball, badminton, hooping, cornhole, b-boy, flair bartending, cardistry, finger tutting, breakdancing, feel flux, and of course sepak takraw.
You may not be familiar with sepak takraw. It's amazing. Once again, you should've come to SkillCon. Sepak takraw is similar to volleyball. The net is lower, there are teams of three, the ball is a wicker-style plastic that absorbs some of the impacts, and most importantly, the players primarily use their feet. It's crazy. Every play is worthy of the highlight reel on the news. An average play starts with a serve where the foot of the server somehow magically goes above their head. The ball rockets across the net where it is saved with a foot or thigh, passed to another player who lofts it to the spiker at the net who does a backflip to kick the ball down at a million miles an hour back over the net. And repeat. It's really fun to watch, and brought me back to my middle school days when I wanted nothing more in the world than to be a ninja.
I have seen flair bartending before, but the skill level at this contest was astounding. It can be hard to impress someone like myself who has been in the juggling and variety arts world so long. I was definitely impressed. I saw incredible precision in bottle handling, both in juggling them and in bouncing them off elbows, knuckles, forearms, etc. I saw liquid thrown into the air and caught again without spilling (and some great moments of it going absolutely everywhere). I also saw shaker cup tricks, napkin tricks, and even straw tricks. One thing that flair has over juggling is that, like tennis, they have bottle boys/girls (men/women really). When a competitor drops, not only does the item get picked up, but it also gets dried off and put back on the bar. I want a squad of prop-fetchers for my performances. Flair people do awesome tricks, plus they make drinks, and they do it all with style and class. Fantastic.
There were also people doing cardistry at SkillCon. Cardistry is all of the really fancy card-handling stuff that you sometimes see magicians do while setting up a card trick. It includes special shuffles, waterfalls, and incredible finger dexterity. Their cardistry fanciness knows no bounds.
The sign-spinning guys were intense. I would never have guessed that they would have as many tricks as they did. Especially the number of handstands and other acrobatic tricks. Their camaraderie was really strong, and fun to see.
One thing that I would have liked to see is some sort of Showcase of Champions at the end. There was a nice show during the New Year's Eve party, but both the performers and the audience were primarily made up of people who had been competing that day. I'd love it if there was a way to encourage the entire mix of attendees to stay to the end and show off their awesomeness to the whole group.
This event was a logical progression of the World Juggling Federation. WJF founder Jason Garfield expanded what was once just a juggling convention into this multi-faceted collection of so many wonderful disciplines. It was fantastic to see a room full of yo-yo players learning how to finger-tut. Getting exposure to so many other skill categories will only make all of us stronger practitioners of our crafts, and better people as a whole. I absolutely loved the chance to meet and watch talented people who I otherwise would have never known. Don't miss your chance to go to SkillCon next year.
SkillCon took place December 26, 2014 to January 2, 2015 at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. The organizers are planning two more events for 2015. Find out more at SkillCon.org.
Mark Hayward is a world yo-yo champion, a member of a world champion juggling team, and a spintop champion. His mom is proud. Mark has traveled the world with a yo-yo on his finger (well, mostly in his pocket), and has made appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman (twice), America’s Got Talent, and the NBC Nightly News (without committing a crime). Someday Mark hopes to perform for both the president and the queen. Not being a convicted criminal should help with that. markhayward.net