The diabolo (commonly misspelled as diablo and mispronounced dia-BO-lo; formerly also known as "the devil on two sticks") is a juggling prop consisting of a spool which is whirled and tossed on a string tied to two sticks held one in each hand. A huge variety of tricks are possible using the sticks, string, and various body parts. Multiple diabolos can be spun on a single string.
Diabolos come in different shapes and materials. 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. One-sided diabolos are also available but are more difficult to use.
Diabolos evolved from the Chinese yo-yo, which was originally standardized in the 12th century. Chinese yo-yos have a long thin axle, with disc-shaped wheels, while the western diabolo is more cone-shaped.
The diabolo was a favorite toy of physicist James Clerk Maxwell, who was said to be quite good at performing with it. This toy is not to be confused with Maxwell's demon, which is a thought experiment.
Contrary to some opinions, the term "diabolo" was not taken from the Italian word for "devil" - "diavolo" - but was coined by French engineer Gustave Phillipart, who developed the modern diabolo in the early twentieth century, and derived the name from the Greek dia bolo, roughly meaning 'across throw'. Confusion about the provenance of the name may have arisen from the earlier "devil on two sticks", although nowadays this often also refers to another circus-based skill toy, the devil stick.
Further increases in speed are obtained by a variety of techniques, including power whips; accelerations, such as Chinese acceleration and loop acceleration; power burners, and orbit tricks.
Once speed is built up, the diaboloist then typically performs a routine based on the tricks outlined below. The best diaboloists can work these tricks smoothly into one another and keep the diabolo in a constant motion without having to pause to speed up the spin again. The diabolo will stay balanced as long there is speed.
Perhaps the most active area of development for diabolo 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"), asynchronous ("async"), or only using the diaboloist's dominant hand, depending on whether the diaboloists hands' movements occur simultaneously or not. Juggling multiple diabolos "high" involves continuously catching and throwing a number of diabolos, with never more than one diabolo on the string at any one time. Diabolists 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 four "low." Most diabolists, 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.
Tricks include :
Another advanced diabolo style is Vertax (Vertical axis, also known as Excalibur). This is where the diabolo is "tipped vertical" by means of "whipping" and is continually spun in this upright state. The person spinning it needs to rotate his/her body to keep up with the constant whipping action due to the momentum and centrifugal 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 has also been done in the form of a fan, which up to date, can only be seen on YouTube. Most of these tricks are accomplished by street performers in competitions, notably the GEDC and the Taipei PEC. Some cut-edge skilled vertax jugglers include the prestigious William (Wei-Liang) Lin (as of 2006, #1 in the world), Hsu (Lin's co-performer), Ryo Yabe (multiple diabolos), Tetsunori Saito, and Higami (a Japanese juggling group), and Jonathan Chen; these jugglers being former (and multiple) winners of these cups. The Sharpe Brothers, Nate and Jacob Sharpe, were the first team to pass diabolos while in vertax form. This was first seen during the Circus Smirkus performance and can also be seen on diabolo.ca on the 2007 collaboration video.
A rather new style of diabolo that is on the rise lately which is gaining new 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.
Instead of having 2 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, 2 diabolo's and vertax. Yo-Yo type slack tricks can also be performed in loop.
This link shows a video of a loop diaboloist. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLmFDFAsvDw
Circus Smirkus in 2006 presented a duo diabolo act starring Jacob and Nate Sharpe with many advanced tricks including the first double sprinkler pass in a performance as well as some fine 5-diabolo passing.
The diabolo programs of many Chinese schools also provide performances, during the Chinese New Year or towards the end of the school year.
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