Jake LaSalle Ran Away to Join the Circus and Wound Up Becoming a Doctor

Jake LaSalle

Out professional juggler Jake LaSalle has done more in his twenty six years than many people do in a lifetime. Along with Marty, his twin brother, Jake started formal gymnastic training when he was eight, taught himself and his brother how to juggle when they were ten, and by the time they were fifteen, the duo were so accomplished as a juggling team they were sought after enough to start performing in France, Germany, England and Japan, as well as all over the United States.

In 1999, they won the bronze medal at the International Jugglers Association Team Championship and returned two years later to claim the gold medal. The duo then continued traveling the world performing, and it was while they were under contract with the Big Apple Circus that Jake and his brother agreed to participate in the filming of the PBS reality show Circus, which not only chronicles the lives of the brothers as performers, but Jake’s decision to leave performing and to study medicine at Columbia University.

As if that isn’t enough, Jake is also writing a book about his experiences.

AfterElton.com had the chance to chat with Jake about being a gay twin, his incredible drive and the stress of juggling as part of a Britney Spears video.

AfterElton: You taught yourself and your brother how to juggle when you were ten. Almost every ten-year-old picks something up and tries to juggle at some point, but you guys stuck with it. Why?

We started out in gymnastics, then for whatever reason, I taught myself to juggle, then I taught my brother, and we were dabbling in it a year or two before the guy who would become our coach saw us and approached us.

Jake with twin brother Marty

AE: Dabbling well enough to have somebody notice and to coach you professionally.

Yes. Exactly. [laughs] We obviously had some natural ability in juggling, and we’d had some rigorous training in gymnastics. And you can’t deny that the fact that we’re twins adds a visual effect to the performance.

AE: Does being a twin make you a better juggler?

AE: Why is that?
Juggling is such a finicky discipline. You have to be so precise. When it comes to juggling with another person, you really have to be on the same rhythm. I’ve juggled with people other than my brother, and I know, even if I practiced with them for ten years, I could never do what I do with my brother because we have the exact same internal rhythms. We have the same body type, the same body mechanics.

When you’re doing tricks and elements that involve the kind of precision that we need, you can’t be half a second off from the person standing next to you. You have to be right on.

AE: You juggled in a Britney Spears video. What the heck was that like?

Performing with Britney was terrifying and exhilarating. It was comforting that we were performing in our tent – the one in which I had already spent a number of months performing – and yet it seemed an entirely different place when she was there.

The audience was deafening, and even after having worked in the tent many a time for a full house, it was unlike anything I could have expected and/or prepared for. Britney herself was quite professional, and made sure the rehearsal the day before was efficient.

I remember being disappointed that they didn’t want us to do some of our harder tricks in rehearsal, but then on the actual day of the performance – after I had heard how loud the audience could be and how disorienting the dozens of cameras could be – I remember being grateful that we were only doing a few relatively easy tricks; it was stressful enough just being on stage with her, and having had to perform difficult elements would have made it even more challenging.

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