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The diabolo (// dee-AB-ə-loh; commonly misspelled diablo) is a juggling prop consisting of an axle and two cups or discs. This object is spun using a string attached to two hand sticks. A huge variety of tricks are possible with the diabolo, including tosses, and various types of interaction with the sticks, string, and various parts of the user's body. Multiple diabolos can be spun on a single string.
History and etymology
Diabolos evolved from the Chinese yo-yo, which was originally standardized in the 12th century. Chinese yo-yos have a longer axle with discs on either end, while the diabolo has a very short axle and larger, round cups on either end. Diabolos are made of different materials and come in different sizes and weights.
The term "diabolo" was not taken from the Italian word for "devil"—"diavolo"—but was coined by French engineer Gustave Phillippart, who developed the modern diabolo in the early twentieth century, and derived the name from the Greek dia bolo, roughly meaning "across throw".
The Greek word "diabolos" means "the liar" or "the one that commits perjury", from the verb "diaballo", which means "to throw in", "to generate confusion", "to divide", or "to make someone fall". Later the word "diabolos" was used by Christian writers as "the liar that speaks against God". From this meaning come many modern languages' words for "devil" (French: diable, Italian: diavolo, Spanish: diablo, Portuguese: diabo, German: Teufel, Polish: diabeł).
Confusion about the provenance of the name may have arisen from the earlier name "the devil on two sticks", although nowadays this often also refers to another circus-based skill toy, the devil stick.
The design of the diabolo has varied through history and across the world. Chinese diabolos have been made of bamboo. Wooden diabolos were common in Victorian times in Britain. Rubber diabolos were first patented by Gustave Phillippart in 1905. In the late twentieth century a rubberised plastic material was first used. Metal has also been used especially for fire diabolos.
The size and weight of diabolos varies. Diabolos with more weight tend to retain their momentum for longer, whereas small, light diabolos can be thrown higher and are easier to accelerate to high speeds. Rubber diabolos are less prone to breakage but are more prone to deformations. More commonly used are plastic-rubber hybrids that allow flex but hold their shape. Diabolos with only one cup ("monobolos") are also used.
The most basic act of diabolo manipulation is to spin it on the string. Typically, the user pulls the stick in his or her dominant hand so that the string moves along the axle, turning it. By doing this repeatedly and rapidly the diabolo rotates faster. The diabolo spin can be accelerated more quickly using various methods: the 'whip' rotates the diabolo faster by one hand stick moving in front of the users body and past the other handstick; the 'wrap' rotates the diabolo faster by the user wrapping a loop of the string around the axle. Both methods increase the amount of string contact with the axle in any given time.
Once spin speed is increased to a sufficient level that the diabolo is stable, the user can then perform tricks. Depending on how long a trick takes to perform the user will normally have to spend some time increasing the spin speed of the diabolo before performing other tricks. Skilled users can perform multiple tricks while maintaining the spin speed of the diabolo.
Tricks and styles
|Toss||The diabolo is tossed in the air and then caught. The diabolist can do a turn in place or a skip over the string while the diabolo is in the air.|
|Trapeze/stopover||The diabolo goes under a stick and the stick touches the string, making the diabolo swing around the stick and land back on the string.|
|Cats cradle/spiderweb||This trick starts with a trapeze. The stick not in the trapeze is inserted between the strings on either side of the stick in the trapeze. The diabolo is tossed into the air, and the strings form an X. The diabolo is caught on the X, and then it can be tossed and caught again.|
|Suicide/stick release||Any trick in which the performer releases one stick, and catches it again. The stick may swing around the diabolo.|
|Grind||The spinning diabolo is balanced on a stick.|
|Sun||The diabolo is swung around in a large circle around both sticks, finishing with 2 twists of string above the diabolo. A sun in the opposite direction undoes this twist. There are many different types of suns; this is the most basic.|
|Orbits/satellites||The diabolo orbits around a body part such as the leg or waist.|
|Knot/magic knot||The line is tangled so as to create the illusion that the diabolo is knotted. It can usually be released with an upward toss motion.|
|Elevator/ladybug||The diabolo climbs up the string; this is done by wrapping the string around the axle and pulling tight.|
|Coffee grinder||The diabolo is caught on the underside of the string, and then the string is looped over one stick. From there, the diabolo is tossed multiple times over the stick.|
|Umbrella||The diabolo is swung and jerked side to side over both sticks, forming the outline of an umbrella.|
|Files||The performer puts both sticks in the left hand, swings the diabolo over the finger and back onto the string so there is a trapeze-like tangle, throws the sticks under the finger and catches them again.|
|Steam engine||The performer pulls the string down the side of the left stick and holds it with the left hand, then brings the right stick over the left and inside the loop created. The right stick is moved in a small circle pushing at the loop, which makes the diabolo jump.|
There are countless tricks and variations that fall outside the above categories; these are often more difficult and form the cutting edge of modern diabolo routines. Some examples are:
|Genocide||Any trick in which the stick is released and the diabolo leaves the string. The diabolo is subsequently caught on the string again, and the stick is caught again.|
|Whip catch||The diabolo is tossed into the air and caught with a whipping motion of the string towards the diabolo.|
|Finger grind||The spinning diabolo is balanced on a finger. This is best done with a bearing or triple bearing diabolo.|
|Infinite suicides||The diabolo appears to be suspended while one stick repeatedly orbits it, and the other stick travels in circles around the diabolo.|
|Slack whips||The stick or sticks are flicked in such a way that a loop of slack in the string is made; this then passes around the diabolo and/or sticks to attain a range of different string mounts.|
|Excalibur/vertical||A series of tricks in which the diabolo is turned vertical. Many tricks normally done outside of vertical can also be done in vertical.|
|Integral||Any trick in which both sticks are released while the string is held.|
|Star Cradle||The strings are twisted into a star-shaped pattern.|
Perhaps the most active area of development for diabolo performance involves tricks with more than one diabolo on a single string. When manipulating multiple diabolos "low", the diabolos orbit continuously on the string in a "shuffle." Shuffles are either synchronous (commonly referred to as "sync") or asynchronous ("async"), depending on whether the diaboloist's hands' movements occur simultaneously or not; shuffles may also be performed with only one hand.
Juggling multiple diabolos "high" involves continuously catching and throwing a number of diabolos, never with more than one diabolo on the string simultaneously. Diaboloists have pushed the number of diabolos juggled at once up to six "high" (although there is some controversy as to whether this counts as the number of catches achieved is so small) and five "low." Most diaboloists, however, stick to using only two or three diabolos at once. The introduction of multiple diabolos on a single string allows for many new moves. Many are applications of one-diabolo moves to multiple diabolos.
- The diabolos are accelerated while they wrap and the diaboloist's dominant hand is pulled up in order to gain speed. Doing a Chinese acceleration or shuffling the diabolos very quickly are two other methods of accelerating diabolos.
- The diabolos orbit each other inside a closed loop of string.
- Two diabolos are bounced up and down on the string.
- Cascade and reverse cascade (also possible with juggling)
- Three diabolos are bounced/thrown around in a cascade or reverse cascade pattern.
- This is a notation borrowed from toss juggling in which the diabolos are thrown in different rhythms based on a numeric description. However, it uses a different system of numeric rhythms compared to toss juggling as diabolos uses one "hand" as string when toss juggling uses two hands to throw the object juggled.
- Two diabolos are spun between the arms in a way which mimics the blades of a fan. While the diabolos rotate they do not switch positions on the string.
- The diabolos are swung in a circle.
- Multiple-diabolo suicides are similar to one-diabolo suicides, but some tricks are not possible.
- Multiple-diabolo knots are similar to one-diabolo knots, but both diabolos are wrapped up.
- This is where both diabolos are still spinning but not in shuffle. This allows the diaboloist to do a trick with the other.
Another advanced diabolo style is vertax (vertical axis; also known as "Excalibur"). This is where the diabolo is "turned vertically" by means of "whipping" and is continually spun in this upright state. The person spinning it needs to rotate their body to keep up with the constant whipping action due to the momentum and centripetal motion at which the diabolo spins. Although the number of tricks seems limited, people are finding more ways to perform with this style, including vertax genocides, infinite suicides, and many suns, orbits, and satellites. It is also possible to have two diabolos in one string in vertax, this feat has been achieved by diabolo duo Tr'espace and a small number of other diaboloists. It has also been done in the form of a fan. Most of these tricks are accomplished by street performers in competitions, notably the GEDC and the Taipei PEC. Some cutting-edge skilled vertax jugglers include William (Wei-Liang) Lin (in 2006, ranked #1 in the world), Ryo Yabe (multiple diabolos), Higami (a Japanese juggling group, noted for inventing the first 'infinite suicide vertax'), and Jonathan P. Chen (noted for inventing the vertax genocide); these jugglers are former and multiple winners of the above-mentioned cups. Eric and Antonin (France) and Nate and Jacob Sharpe (USA) have contributed greatly to the development of vertax passing techniques.
This is a relatively recent style of diabolo that is gaining popularity. It utilizes the diabolo so that it has little or no spin at all. Then it can be caught and passed and manipulated with different parts of the body instead of just the sticks and string. It has new possibilities and new ideas are arising from this. Examples include catching the diabolo between one's arm and the stick before throwing it back. Tricks with multiple diabolos have also been developed.
Instead of having two sticks connected by a string, the diabolo is manipulated on a loop of string held around the hands. This opens up a variety of new tricks such as suicides, suns, whips, stopovers, trapezes, two diabolos and vertax. Yo-yo type slack tricks can also be performed in a loop.
Monobolo is a variation of the diabolo where instead of having two diabolo cups, there is only one and a weight on the other side. The monobolo can be used in the same fashion as normal diabolos. However, if a monobolo is put into excalibur, or horizontally, monobolos can be manipulated to be like a spinning top. To start a monobolo, twist the string around the axle and then let it gain some speed.
In 2012 the Viva Elvis Casino show in Las Vegas, added a Diabolo Duet act, which includes Trevor Nassler & Maria Wolf.
In 2006 Circus Smirkus presented a duo diabolo act starring Jacob and Nate Sharpe, with advanced tricks including the first double sprinkler pass in a performance as well as some five-diabolo passing.
The diabolo programs of many Chinese schools provide performances during the Chinese New Year or near the end of the school year.
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