ENTERTAINMENT

The trick to Utah woman’s world-class juggling: Her living room

Jul 7, 2024, 9:11 PM | Updated: Jul 12, 2024, 10:37 am

SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake City woman has been making a big name for herself in the juggling world and has been called a “phenom” and “the best female juggler ever.”

Delaney Bayles started juggling at 13 when an uncle taught her the basics at a family gathering. She watched YouTube tutorials.

“I loved that I could teach myself everything,” she said. “I think I just needed something that I could do on my own and get really good at.”

Delaney Bayles in her living room practicing her juggling skills.

Delaney Bayles in her living room practicing her juggling skills. (Peter Rosen, KSL TV)

Bayles joined a summer youth circus and attended circus school. Now in her 20s, she’s a seasoned performer, juggling at circuses and other venues in France, Israel, England, Belgium and other countries. She travels to Finland in the fall.

“A dream come true,” she said. “I think it’s kind of the adventure of my 20s, maybe before I kind of settle down and get a real job.”

Bayles is finishing up a degree in kinesiology. Her mother said she was pleased about that.

Bayles has also enjoyed a level of fame among jugglers worldwide. For three years in a row, she was number one of the “Top 40 Jugglers.”

“Juggler for Jesus” author and juggling museum owner David Cain calls her “the best female technical toss juggler … by far.”

“I mean, leaps and bounds better than any woman in history,” Cain told KSL TV.

David Cain, expressing his excitement over Bayles and her world records.

David Cain, expressing his excitement over Bayles and her world records. (Peter Rosen, KSL TV)

He talked about her world records, juggling six clubs with shoulder throws, and juggling seven rings behind her back and seven rings over her head.

“They’re just tricks no one else in the world can do as well,” he said. “You know, usually when people juggle behind the back, they juggle either balls or clubs. Almost no one juggles rings behind the back because they’re super, super awkward to do it, and not only has Delaney done it with, you know, four or five or whatever. She can do it with seven. That’s amazing.”

Bayles juggling clubs behind her back.

Bayles juggling clubs behind her back. (Peter Rosen, KSL TV)

Bayles is one of fewer than two dozen jugglers and the only woman who’s been able to juggle seven clubs for more than 100 throws.

She placed first at the International Jugglers’ Association‘s juggling championships and became the first juggler ever to win all three stage competitions for juniors, teams and individuals.

”That’s a big deal,” Cain said.

Bayles says the secret of her juggling success is her living room.

Her go-to practice space is a spacious room with a fireplace and river rock encased chimney that extends from the floor to the ceiling 20 feet up. A fan light is lashed to the side to make room for flying clubs and rings.

The famous living room space that Bayles uses for her practice.

The famous living room space that Bayles uses for her practice. (Peter Rosen, KSL TV)

Typical ceilings are just too low for many tricks and outdoor conditions are just too unpredictable. She never had to leave home to find a space tall enough to accommodate her high-flying tricks.

“I think at the end of the day, if there was one thing, yeah,” Bayles said.

Cain said jugglers all over the world can recognize that room, even without seeing her juggling in it, because they’ve watched so many of her videos.

“That room is like one of the most iconic rooms,” he said.

Perhaps her success, though, is due to more than her living room. One word that Cain brings up a lot is “perseverance.”

“If you’re a juggler, you’re fighting against gravity, and it takes a lot of perseverance on your part,” he said. “A lot of juggling is pushing through failure time and time and time again,” he said.

“As jugglers, we get used to failure a lot,” Bayles said. ”It’s just part of every day, and it happens far more than successes do, and certainly if you’re not dropping or not learning.”

A one-legged, seven-club juggler

A century before Bayles juggled seven clubs, another Utahn apparently accomplished that jaw-dropping feat, Quentin Thomas Wells’ grandfather, John Phillip Thomas.

In his book, “The Juggler,” Wells writes that Thomas could start juggling five clubs, and then his brother, Cos, would toss in two more.

A photo of John Phillip Thomas with his juggling gear.

A photo of John Phillip Thomas with his juggling gear. (Courtesy Quentin Thomas Well)

Wells said Thomas, born in the Utah territory in 1876, picked up boxing from a book and then added club swinging, which he learned from that same book to his exercise routine.

Club swinging is an exercise that originated in India and Persia. Eventually, Thomas taught himself to juggle those clubs and began to get noticed for his talent.

He got a job offer from the Ringling Brothers Circus, quit his job at a salt company where he worked as a miller, and prepared to hop a train to New York City.

The very day he was to leave, Thomas had an accident that changed his life.

“A salt train rolled in and the engineer asked for volunteers to uncouple (pull the pins between) a couple of the cars,” Wells told KSL TV.

Thomas offered to help and pulled the pin, but his foot got caught. He was unable to move out of the way when the train rolled backward and crushed his leg. Doctors amputated his left leg below the knee.

Once he recuperated, Thomas returned to work at the salt company, still boxing as the world’s only one-legged boxer and juggling on the side.

An older Thomas with his gear of juggling items.

An older Thomas with his gear of juggling items. (Courtesy Quentin Thomas Well)

It was during that time. Wells said, his grandfather learned to juggle seven clubs. It’s not an accomplishment for the record books, said Cain, since there is no definitive proof.

Thomas passed his juggling skills on to two of his daughters, who performed in vaudeville theater.

“He was a brave and very strong man. He had an opportunity for fame and riches he lost it,” Wells said. “But he didn’t dwell on it. He got over it. He married. He had five children all of whom were successful and prosperous.

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The trick to Utah woman’s world-class juggling: Her living room