Fun, awesome and a brand-new experience: those are the three phrases I'd use to describe the streetmosphere (street atmosphere) shows at the Venetian. There are more than 45 shows going on in the Macau venue every day, and I learned a little about what they do.
I teamed up with two professional jugglers who covered three aspects of the art of juggling. First, how to throw; second, how to catch; and third, how to brighten up the atmosphere - or should I say, streetmosphere.
If you want to become a professional juggler, you need excellent hand, eye and foot co-ordination!
You may think you know how to throw, but in juggling, the technique is very important - one wrong throw may ruin your entire show. When you throw a ball, the arc it follows must be symmetrical, and the top of the arc must be in the middle of your face. This means the ball's flight path will be directed to your other hand.
When you throw the second ball, you must wait until your first ball is nearly in your other hand, and then throw it inside the first ball's flight path. Otherwise the balls will collide.
Secondly, if you can catch easily, learning to catch in juggling will be simple. I wouldn't even call it catching the ball: if you're good enough, the balls just land right in your hands. Your palms should be facing upwards.
Thirdly, we learned how to brighten the atmosphere. The professionals gave us excellent advice, which was also pretty funny. First, we should always keep our backs straight as no one wants to see a hunchback juggling.
Second, speaking another language will add a jolly tone, as it takes your audience to a different world - your world. And third, always use your feet to help you as the audience loves it.
The last and most important piece of advice was that you must always smile! Smiling is the key to brightening up the atmosphere as no one wants to watch sour grapes juggling.
My partner and I had no problem juggling two balls, but when it came to three, we struggled. The entertainers told us we need three weeks of intense training to perfect our skills, get up to their standard (they can do eight balls at a time) and sing at the same time! The art looks easy, but in reality, it is very hard.
Streetmosphere artists have many skills like singing, playing music, unicycling and juggling. Yet, they are constantly learning new tricks. At the Venetian, we met a singer who was learning how to use a unicycle, a unicycler who was learning how to juggle, etc. Everyone there is learning, teaching and sharing their skills.
When you watch some of the performances like juggling with hats or unicycling, it might look easy. But think twice. We tried, and believe us it's far from easy! It requires a lot of coordination, balance and most of all practice.
I particularly enjoying trying the unicycle. It was the hardest but also the most exciting. Here are a few tips to be good at unicyling.
First, you need to smile. It's tough to smile since you are so focused on trying to keep your balance, but smiling helps you relax, and the more you're relax, the better you do and enjoy it.
Second, don't look down. You want to move forward, so look forward.
Last but not the least, practice your balance at all times, so you will not rock on the unicycle.
The gondola is a traditional, flat-bottomed rowing boat from Venice in Italy. Gondolas are hand-made using eight different types of wood. The left side of the gondola is longer than the right side. This prevents it from turning to the left.
The person who rows a gondola is called a gondolier. For our 50-minute gondolier lesson, I was in Rocco's group. Rocco is a nice Italian man who patiently taught us how to be a gondolier. At first, I thought being a gondolier would be easy. I didn't think we'd need experience - it looks so simple.
But after trying to stand up and control the gondola, I found I had no control at all! Rocco reminded me to face the bow, or the front, and row with a forward stroke, followed by a compensating backward stroke. Slowly I managed to make the gondola move.
After that, we sat down and enjoyed the lovely Macau scenery. Rocco then taught us an Italian song. It was hard for me to remember how to pronounce the Italian words. But Rocco was not annoyed. Finally, he sang us the famous song Santa Lucia, which was the perfect ending to our lesson.
It was a perfect day for a leisurely ride through the Marco Polo canal, aboard a beautifully crafted Venetian gondola. The fact we learned about a gondolier's job made it even better.
The gondolier first politely helps passengers to get on board. Then, standing at the back, he starts to row in the Venetian style: that is, standing at the back of the boat and singing.
Rocco is one of the gondoliers at the Venetian. He has worked there for three months and taught us the skills.
To keep the gondola moving smoothly and in the right direction, gondoliers have to use a steady rate of energy to control the oar. Their wrists have to be powerful yet flexible to move the gondola across the lake. It is not an easy job and your hands get tired quickly.
But Rocco really likes it. "I took a week to learn to control the gondola," he says. "It is an enjoyable and special job - I have different experiences every day."
Rocco, who once sung in concerts in Italy, also taught us the Italian song Santa Lucia. His voice was tender and struck a deep chord.
Going on a gondola ride takes you around the impressive and spectacular scenery of the Venetian. If you get the chance to ride a gondola, take it. It is a truly a marvellous experience.