Carlos Mir will be working every day for the next several weeks.
The skilled juggler — who spins fire and tasers, among other things — won’t have a day off until after Sept. 9, but he greeted that thought with cheerfulness.
“Working? Who’s working? I’m having fun,” the Delmar, Del., resident said playfully during a recent conversation with the Coastal Point, before a show in Ocean City, Md.
Fascinated by juggling since he was a boy, Mir — the father of 33-year-old Rebecca Mir who, of course, he taught to juggle — looks at his career philosophically.
“You have got to take a little risk. You have to try it. If you fail, that is how you learn from your mistakes. You have to try.
“I can juggle anything without fear. You have to get away from, ‘Oh, if I catch it wrong…’ If you’re good, you don’t catch it wrong; and if you catch it wrong, you have to know how to handle it and release it fast enough. I know when I’m going to catch it wrong. I already know, so I catch it so I won’t get hurt. It’s a split-second decision to catch it wrong or drop it,” said Mir, who uses the alliterative stage name “Cascading Carlos.”
He’s never been hurt while juggling, except for pulling a back muscle, and has never gotten burned, he noted.
“When I juggle fire, I use the science of a candle. I use liquid wax — not kerosene or gasoline — because wax burns the least hot that it can be to produce a flame. You can put your hand over a candle and it doesn’t necessarily burn your hand instantly. If you use a gasoline flame or wood flame, you could burn your hand just holding it over the flame for a second,” Mir explained, adding that some performers do work with kerosene, gasoline or alcohol, but they are more hazardous and produce fumes audiences don’t like to smell.
The son of Kay Mir and the late Chico Mir, Carlos Mir — named for his grandfather — was born in Bogota, Columbia, but raised in New Jersey. His father, who was Cuban, met his mother, a native of South Dakota, in college. The couple was in South America when Mir was born but moved to the United States and wanted to be Americanized, their son said.
A graduate of Salisbury University, where he played lacrosse and earned a degree in communication arts, Mir later worked as an engineer for TV stations in Salisbury, Md., and ran sound and lighting, set up cameras and organized live remote broadcasts.
“After seven years of working in media, because of that experience, I understand media so well, and I carry that information to this day,” he said. He has designed his own logos and writes news releases about his upcoming shows.
A professional juggler for the past 27 years, Mir was introduced to the art as a boy of 10, and there’s excitement in his voice when he recounts the story.
“I was in Florida with my family, and we visited Circus World. There was a live show, and in that live show was a juggler who called 10 people up. I was one of the 10. He took us to an area and showed us all how to juggle. I was the smallest, at 10. He went down the line, and I was the last kid to do it — and I juggled. Nobody else could do it.
“I thought there were thousands of people in the audience. My mother said there were about 100. But everyone was cheering for me, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’ and the juggler was saying, ‘I’m the best teacher in the world,’ and he was going on and on, and I was having so much fun. I went home, and that’s all I did, was practice,” he said.
Mir juggled over his bed so he didn’t make enough noise to aggravate his parents if he dropped items on the floor, and so he didn’t have to bend over as far to pick them up. There were no instructional videos in those days, but there were a couple experts on TV that he’d watch, enthralled, he said.
“I used to see these people, and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ But I never looked at it as a career. Then, as my passion grew, I said, ‘Why not?’” Mir said.
There was a time after high school when he stopped juggling, then when his daughter was in daycare, he met Sandy Johnson, who performs as Sunshine the Clown. She gave him a diabolo, or Chinese yo-yo, and he started performing again.
“At one time, I didn’t even know what a Chinese yo-yo was, but I got pretty good on my own, without ever being taught,” he said.
He entertained at a local library and was surprised when, afterward, the librarian handed him a check for $50.
“I was like, ‘I can get paid for this?’” he recalled thinking.
Eventually, Mir was juggling in libraries throughout Maryland and Delaware, and even in Dorchester County.
“I have to give the library community credit for my skills and for inviting me to do shows. They gave me the opportunity to practice and hone my acts. At the library, everybody is so kind and sweet, so when you make mistakes or drop things, they don’t boo you. Everyone is very appreciative that you are out there and you’re making their families laugh,” he said.
Through the end of September, he will be performing at 4 p.m. every Tuesday and Friday at Bethany Beach Ocean Suites on Hollywood Street in Bethany Beach. He’ll be at the South Coastal Library, too, and he juggles at the Holiday Inn on 66th Street in Ocean City on Sundays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. He’ll be there through the summer.
See his full schedule at www.cascadingcarlos.com.
Mir also entertains at private parties, birthday celebrations and corporate events, charging $300 for birthday parties and non-profit events, or $350 for businesses. Each show lasts 55 minutes, followed by an hour afterward spent interacting with the audience and teaching his skill.
In 2015, Mir achieved a Guinness Book of World Records certificate for throwing the diabolo 78.5 feet high and catching it, breaking the record of having it thrown 65 feet.
In May 2021, he got a second Guinness certificate, for the most helicopter spins with “devil sticks” in one minute — 113 times, beating the old record of 106 times per minute.
“Juggling is the joy I give. You can see the excitement. If I can teach you how to do it, it gives you instant joy. Your self-esteem is boosted, and that carries you through times of struggle and times of doubt,” he reasoned.
Except for a few months during winter, when he works on the administrative part of his business, he keeps a hectic schedule — one might say he has several balls in the air — that requires him to eat well and stay in shape “because I want to be the best I can be when I’m performing.”
He uses more than a dozen props, including fire, pirate machetes, hatchets and cleavers “sharp enough to go through a watermelon, but if you catch them, they aren’t sharp enough to cut you,” he said.
Tasers get into the act, too, but he uses them sparingly, he said, because when they discharge, the noise scares children.
“My mission is to create memories, and that’s what hotels want — interacting with guests, teaching guests how to juggle. This year, I have a new goal: my goal is to teach 1,000 people to juggle and to document it,” he said.
In 2006, he was honored with a Jefferson Award for volunteering in the community, for starting a children’s theater, presenting children’s productions and teaching others how to juggle.
“The Jefferson Award gave me such worthiness. To be honored on that level was something that meant I was going in the right direction in life. Juggling is something difficult to do, so when you see someone do it with such ease and such simplicity, it becomes an amazing thing to watch. People respect you. If it was easy, everyone could do it, but it’s easy if you practice at it. It’s about trying. If you don’t try, you’ll never get better,” he said.
Not only did Mir teach his daughter — who is now grown and living in Orlando — how to juggle, but he also taught his wife, Heather.
After they met, but before she learned he was a professional juggler, they were shopping at Target and she happened to notice juggling balls. She picked them up, tossed a couple into the air and teased, “Look at me. I can juggle.”
“I said, ‘Wow, that’s really good.’ So we go home, and I started juggling all these things, and she got a look like, ‘Oh, OK,’” he said, laughing.
“But I didn’t laugh at her or make fun of her. It’s wrong to make fun of somebody who is trying,” Mir said. “You know, people who judge are people who do nothing.”