Give & Take 


Give & Take Heritage

group of 5 jugglers throwing balls b&w
circus aerialist hanging sideways on a trapeze at a festival

The Give & Take Jugglers were born in 1976 within Dave Gillies’ 5th grade classroom, with students learning how to juggle and putting on performances.  Dave quickly discovered that his fifth graders learned juggling variations faster than he could, a source of great delight to them, and they started getting some media attention.  The group started receiving invitations to perform at other schools and local events.  One thing led to another and by 1980 Dave left teaching and began performing full time. 

A handful of Dave’s students continued to perform regularly with him, and two in particular, David Cousin and Steven McMenamin performed with Give & Take for 15 years.  

Dave began street performing regularly in old city Philadelphia at Headhouse Square / Newmarket, and this - perhaps more than anything else - contributed to creating material and honing performance skills.  

It was around this time that Dave met Nick Gregory. One New Years' day in Philadelphia, while attending a Mummer's parade, Nick's friend Barbara Alexander noticed a man juggling three snowballs. "My friend Nick juggles," she exclaimed.  The snowball juggler was Dave.  They began performing together regularly and came to define the classic G&T partnership for over 30 years. 

Give & Take utilized the traditional master / apprentice model for many years, welcoming new talent into the crew.  Tom VanVoorhees and Eric Geoffrey joined in the early 80’s, the first apprentices that weren’t former students, and Give & Take continued to grow.  Notable additions over the next decade were Keith Eveslage, John O’Brien, Devin Bird, and Kiva Ford.

Throughout the 1980’s and well into the 2000’s it was common for multiple G&T teams to be performing simultaneously at different events on busy weekends.  Performers combined to create variations on the family friendly G&T theme.  

In 1993 Dave met Elsa, a fiery clown and acrobat from Spain with a background in traditional European circus.  Their paths soon became entwined, and in addition to finding the love of their lives, Elsa opened the door for G&T to run away and join the circus.  A flood of inspirations followed in the years to come, broadening the troupe’s horizons, and leading them to incorporate multiple forms of circus arts into the act.  

Elsa also inspired and built the beloved body puppets Pipo & Pepe, a rare kind of costumed acrobatics known as a bend-over puppet.  It took a surprising amount of creativity and effort to create the body puppets, and even more to animate them.  Elsa brought an extremely unique approach to this performance and breathed life into the puppets in a way that remains unparalleled.   

Elsa passed away in 2004, leaving a legacy that burns brightly to this day.

The 2000’s ushered in a new era for the Give & Take family with the addition of cirque style aerial artistry and our discovery of the joys of tight-wire walking.  Both elements became a mainstay of performances, and The Little Circus was born.  

During this time, Philadelphia’s circus community was blossoming, and G&T was fortunate to have a cast of aerialists who joined in performances at larger events and festivals.  

As we approach our 50th year we continuously marvel at the longevity of our success, and are extremely grateful for the opportunities we get to practice our craft at every single appearance.  We often think of ourselves as ambassadors of joy, bringing our unique brand of good-natured family-friendly entertainment into the communities that invite us in.  

There is a reason we get asked back again and again, and we’d like to cordially invite you to experience for yourself why this is.  

charming photo of dave and elsa smiling
Dave at the Philadelphia Folk Festival
young nick gregory juggling balls in a school
acrobatic body puppet getting wound up

Learn more

about Give & Take Alumni, visit our historic photo archives, or Get In Touch about bringing us to your event.

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