ACE-K at Buskerfest 2016

Eisuke Saito
PHOTO credit: Eisuke Saito

Woodbine Park, September 4, 2016
by David Fujino

“Like a ninja, ACE-K’s moves are swift and precise. His jaw-dropping routine will amaze crowds with his unique set of acrobatics and juggling and some of the most insane balloon manipulation ever. This Japanese sensation is a must-see!”

After reading the above energetic Buskerfest press release, I absolutely had to see this Japanese busker for myself.

About ACE-K:
ACE-K — a.k.a. Eisuke Saito — entered Japan’s Sori International Circus School at the tender age of 16 where he learned dance, acrobatics, juggling, and ballet. Upon graduation, he turned professional.

– Mosaic Street Performance Contest – Special Award
– Fukuyama Street Performance Grand Prix – Special Award
– U.S.A. Spring Busker Festival – Peoples Choice Award
– Festival des Artistes de Rue – 3eme Prix de L’Humor
– Bamberg Zauberai Kategorie Award Winner

We’re at grassy Woodbine Park’s Location 7, and the banner says, “Family Fun”: ACE-K walks about in black ninja clothes with covered feet and hands, wearing on his shoulders a black cloak edged with red trim. As he places two black equipment trunks decorated with red velvet onto trolleys, his cloak comes off and he quickly sorts through each trunk filled with unknown paraphernalia. Then, after a quick visit to the sound tent for a clip-on microphone, he strides back to the centre of the large circle formed by the audience on the grass and begins his multi-part set.

Balloon manipulation:
ACE-K started with a red balloon pulled into a long hot dog shape that, after much bunching and crunching and manipulation, triumphantly emerged as a chubby multi-petalled red bouquet with a thick green stem — where’d that come from? — which was kindly offered to an appreciative little girl in the crowd.

Juggling with diablo:
He next began leisurely tossing and catching four red diablo (tops) on thin black cords held in both spread-out hands. Then a single diablo top (see photo) balanced on the thin edge of a Japanese fan and was held out to the audience. As ACE-K continued by lofting four or so Diablo high into the sky (and while waiting for the diablos’ fall back to earth), he rapidly skipped with the cords, and when the diablo returned to earth and were successfully caught, he punctuated it all with an abrupt back flip. Impressive. The audience applauded loudly.

Housekeeping announcement:
At this point, as a form of ‘housekeeping’, ACE-K took a moment to make two requests of the audience. He asked that the audience be aware of the falling diablo and mimed that they’re dangerous and will cut open heads, blood will spray, and the victim will fly off on wings like an angel fluttering up to heaven. Be aware! was the message. The second request was that the audience NOT walk across the circle of his performance area: if they had to leave or move, they should always walk around the outside of the circle on the public pathways. He was so Japanese about it all. Polite and clear, but firm.

More balloon manipulation and transformation:
This time, a black sword scabbard became a long blue hot dog-shaped balloon which finally grew into a doll with a round yellow face on a squarish blue body. While working with the balloons, Ace-K played to the audience with balletic movements and impish sideways looks, and when he pulled a young Asian boy out of the audience to assist him, and got him to spin a large blue balloon on an upright single finger (after 3 tries), Ace-K finally gifted the boy with the balloon figure.

A brief juggling interlude:
Ace-K showed the crowd a large blue ball spinning on a rigid index finger. The spinning ball was then passed behind his back and returned to the front still spinning. Then our star performer gazed at it and produced — amazing! — a tiny ball spinning on top of the large blue spinning ball! Very cool.

More diablo play:
Running, and almost skipping, Ace-K did a quick body flip and tossed a diablo high up in the sky and caught it. Four diablo next appeared spinning behind his back. Eventually these same four diablo came to rest in front of him.

FINALE: Playing with the weather and slight winds:
After some clever juggling of three silver poles, which Ace-K joined into a single 18 foot towering pole, balanced deftly on one toe — I wondered how he was going to hold it up, since he’s a short man — somehow a clear cup affixed to the end of the long silver pole appeared! and after about 3 attempts? (it was windy), and while balancing the pole on his forehead, ACE-K triumphed when a small green ball he tossed from his toe landed plop! in the clear cup! Truly amazing. To the rousing cheers of the audience, Ace-K responded with a quick back flip! Thank you very much, Ace-K. I hope your black money box was filled with many of the 5 and 10 dollar bills you requested as a form of appreciation, for like all the other buskers flown to the fest and put up in hotel rooms, the performers receive no pay. Busking globally is your sole means of paid employment and you should be rewarded financially for all your talent, dedication and crowd-pleasing work.

There were some changes this year. Buskerfest — celebrating its 17th anniversary — moved from the familiar streets of downtown Toronto to a new venue at Woodbine Park in the Beach area. Frankly, I was anxious to see how ACE-K and other buskers would manage in an outdoor park open to the four winds and close to Lake Ontario. I’m happy to report, they managed magnificently.

Buskerfest is staged in support of Epilepsy Canada, and for a modest donation of $5.00 dollars, visitors gain entry to this event and its global performers. Buskerfest ran from September 2 to 5, 2016. It’s a great outing for the entire family.

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