KEEPING HER EYE ON THE CLUB: Juggler Sandra Leith at Play

KEEPING HER EYE ON THE CLUB: Juggler Sandra Leith at Play

News-Record, Sept. 19 '19
Rose Gilbert

You think you're busy, juggling work, home, life in general? Meet someone who really knows how to keep a lot of balls in the air, Sandra Leith of South Orange. And not just plain old balls: she can juggle clubs, even lit torches. "And I'm working up to machetes," she teases.

A life-long devotee of the art of juggling -- and, in real life, a certified sign language interpreter -- Sandra will be teaching her juggling skills at the South Orange-Maplewood Adult School on four Thursday evenings, starting Oct. 3.

Why on earth? you may ask. Sandra has answers, and they're not just about fun and games and kids' birthday parties. "Juggling is relaxing," she reports. "Well, maybe not in the beginning when you're always dropping things. But it's good exercise for the body -- all that bending to pick them up."

Juggling also makes you concentrate, she says, pointing to scientific studies (at Oxford and the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany) showing that juggling is actually good for the brain. According to researchers, it increases both gray matter and white matter, because juggling is a complex task that "tweaks the architecture of the brain." (Read more:

Juggling's good for manual deterity, too. There, Sandra's already proficient. She has been signing since she was 10 years old. Today, she uses her ASL skills to work with special children in the Denville school system.

It all began with a long ago "Bring Your Daughter To Work Day," she recalls. "Dad was an occupational therapist in Clinton. I was in the fourth grade and on that day I learned how to say my name in sign language and picked up a guide on how to sign the entire alphabet. I've been signing ever since."

Her Dad -- and Mom -- also took up juggling "just for fun," Sandra says. Eventually, the whole family got in the act, including her brother. He's since cooled on the hobby, but Sarah's a regular at the Jersey Jugglers, a group founded in 1992 that attracts members aged 7 to 70 to regular Tuesday night meet-ups in Morris Plains.

She has also taught at Circus Place in Hillsborough, a school that develops skills for both adults and kids who want to learn fun circus-ring talents, such as riding unicycles, performing aerial skills like tight-rope walking, and, of course, juggling. It's all in good fun, as Sandra says of her fellow practitioners. "We like to be a little bit silly."

Rose Bennett Gilbert is a long-time Adult School trustee and a recovering klutz.