I recall auditioning at the Gallo Center for the Arts (California arts theater sponsored by Gallo Family) for a talent contest. The producer said to me that when I perform, it’s not a boy just showing tricks with his yo-yo but someone that interacts with it. It’s almost as if I’m dancing and the yo-yo is my partner.

That got me thinking, do you guys agree? When watching a freestyle, do you see a person and his partner doing tricks (dance moves) to music?

Also, if you take out the yo-yo and do tricks with an imaginary yo-yo, do they look like dance moves? Just something for you to think about.

Watch contests performance videos, but pay special attention to the artistic divisions.

Also, Jensen Kimmit’s performance at Worlds 2011, I could care less who agrees with me, was far more interesting to me than any other performance. But also consider this was in the 1A division, not the AP division.

I won’t name too many names. I lack sufficient experience. Mickey(Hiroyuki Suziki) may be a speed demon, but he’s definitely trying to go after a total package performance that includes more than just banging out trick after trick at lightning speed. You’ll notice his moves are tied to the music in the routine. But again, these are COMPETITIVE style division performances.

It’s not supposed to be standing there and banging out tricks. They want to see you using the yoyo as an extension of yourself.

I actually think that all too often the pro performances lack this quality. While everyone does their own thing to some degree or another, there are often some (and usually the very high scoring ones) that don’t have this sort of pure, artistic quality to them.

I’ll pick on Marcus Koh’s winning entry last year. Certainly a mindblowing display of skill. But, most of it also felt very, very rigid to me. It was just trick after trick in insanely rapid succession. Watching it, I got the clear impression that he’d worked out that routine and practiced it to the letter for months on end for the express purpose of winning a contest. Again, it’s not that what he’s doing is BAD, it’s excellent, but it just felt like it was less of a performance (or “dance”) and more of a trick showcase. Jensen’s, in total contrast, looked like he was much more concerned with how each trick looked to the audience, where his body was in relation to the yoyo and the stage, and how each trick related to the next. It was a performance.

Personally, I practice doing stylish and interesting variations on all my tricks almost all of the time. I always feel that a simpler trick done smoothly is 10x better than a difficult trick done textbook. But, that’s just me. I’m sure there are plenty of people who’d rather see pure technique.

Performance is always a very delicate situation. Everyone has their own style, how they entertain. And not matter what kind of performance style you have, you’re going to have people that love it and people that hate it, because, let’s face it, the world is a place full of haters.

For example, it is hard to compare the performance style of Paul Han and Anthony Rojas. With Paul, there usually is that vibe you get like “what-the-hell, I’m just going to pull off this freestyle because I am Paul Han, and I am awesome” (Paul is one of my favorite players/biggest inspirations. With Anthony Rojas, his freestyles are always soooo intense. The best example of this would be his nationals freestyle he did this past fall. Everything was intense about that routine: the tricks, the song, the choreography, and the overall mood of the routine. And it was amazing to watch.

I believe that when it comes to performance style you need to keep in mind that judges can usually tell if you are truly interacting with your yo-yo or just going a little bit overboard. With talent shows, I’ve found that it is okay for me to be a little bit more interactive with the crowd, and that is always something to experiment with, because there is no perfect formula to what is the best crowd interaction and what is not. I say go outside the box with your yo-yoing, try some funny dance moves that aren’t too overbearing for you or what you think would be too distracting for the crowd. Move around the stage, put on a big smile, and just go with the flow. Most of your best routines will not go all accordingly to plan and are unexpected to even yourself. You just gotta remember to go out there and have an amazing time.

  • John

Doing sound at Cal States 2012, I had a fantastic un-blocked view of the stage and saw a LOT of amazing things.

Guy Wright’s performance was nothing short of an amazing combination of flow, control and smooth. Oh, he was fast when it needed it, but the whole thing just felt so relaxed. It was like watching a dance. So relaxed at the same time as well. It was like the yoyo was responding exactly like a dancer would being guided by the lead.

Similarly I have to agree with Anthony Rojas as well, which while I don’t recall as much, it was a very good performance. Watching it again, he brings it when he needs to bring it. Otherwise, he’s kind of more relaxed. A very interesting, competent and entertaining performer.

While I am a fan of Mickey, the speed demon stuff is kinda getting old to me. At 2011, I honestly wasn’t impressed that much with Marcus Koh because the performance was definitely “purposeful” and omitted anything that wasn’t necessary for gathering points, leaving a very dry and cold performance to me. Amazing on a technical level? Yes. Do I think it should have gotten him the title? No. The one performance that DID impress me was Jensen’s Finals freestyle. While not a blistering string banging full title sprint from beginning to end, it had flow and control and style all to itself. Visually interesting, it was like watching a very well performed waltz of sorts between man and yoyo. Was it good enough to take Worlds? No, probably not, even going the full time would have made no difference as he didn’t bring what “scores big” from a judging point of view. What I saw was that he brought what was needed, which was a performance that set the contest community a bit off their balance, forcing some issues regarding the current judging system.

I am amazed at the skill required to bang out tricks. My style will be “slogging out tricks” as I’ll never get all that great or amazing, plus I yoyo for ME, not for contests(nor will I compete). But to perform where the yoyo is an extension of oneself, that’s what makes the yoyo truly amazing.