Jackson Hranek has a bag of so many tricks that it oftentimes becomes confusing.

Some may seem him clad in typical tee and jeans, riding through the Arbor on his white and black unicycle. Others know him as the student who swipes ACCESS cards at the De La Guerra Dining Commons in formal dance wear. Then there are those who have seen him juggling in the All Hall Talent Show hosted by the Residence Hall Association. Questions then arise: Who is this person, and how does he do it all?

It turns out that Hranek, a second-year comparative literature major and education minor, began his circus trick repertoire by learning about card tricks.

“It all started about four or five years ago,” Hranek said. “I started doing magic tricks, and my family would call me Jackson ‘The Almost Amazing’ Hranek because I would never get the card right when I was doing card tricks.”

However, Hranek said he was not deterred by his lack of success in cards and moved onto other pursuits with the encouragement of his mother.

“From there, I started juggling, and then one day, my mom said, ‘Jackson, you should be in a circus. You should ride a unicycle,’” Hranek said. “I thought it was a stupid idea, and I told her I did not want to ride one.”

Despite his initial refusal to ride a unicycle, Hranek’s mother still bought him one for Christmas four years ago. At first, Hranek said he thought it was money down the drain.

“I told my mom it was a waste of money because I would never ride it, but then over the summer I went on a camping trip with one of my friends and both of us became really competitive with each other over who could ride the unicycle over a farther distance,” Hranek said.

Since then, Hranek said he has come a long way with his juggling and unicycling skills. Last year, Hranek competed and placed second in the All Hall Talent Show.

“I got second place mainly for juggling, but I added the unicycle at the end and I jumped over one of my friends,” Hranek said. “With that, I won $200 and used it to buy my new unicycle that I ride around campus on.”

During the same year of his talent show success, Hranek began to expand his circus trick repertoire to also include clown tricks.

“I saw someone doing balloon animals, so I thought I needed to learn how to do those,” Hranek said.

To his surprise, his mother had already bought him balloons and other performance supplies for him to practice with.

“[I] told my mom that I wanted to start making balloon animals. She said, ‘Oh yeah, I thought about that last week and bought some for you to start practicing with,’” Hranek said. “It’s been really cool because my mom has been really supportive of me.”

In addition, Hranek began taking university offered ballroom dance classes and participated in an on-campus dance club called Cotillion. The group offers two lessons a week in five-lesson increments on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Robertson Gymnasium. There, they practice anything from waltz, tango and foxtrot to rumba and cha-cha.

Hranek occasionally participates in competitions, which he said are offered for dancers of all skill levels.

“That’s actually very common. A lot of competitions are revolved around the people who aren’t so good, the people who just started,” Hranek said. “There’s even a level for people who have been dancing for under six months.”

Thus far, Hranek said has been dancing for a year and a half and has been enjoying it every step of the way.

“I love it. The first two quarters I was dancing, I was dancing about 20 hours a week,” Hranek said. “There’s just so much to do, and Cotillion hosts a lot of great activities.”

Hranek said despite the time he has spent honing his juggling, unicycling and dance skills, he is uncertain whether or not he will pursue a professional career with any of these current hobbies. Realistically, Hranek said he hopes to enter the field of education once he graduates, but he notes that he will continue to develop his bag of tricks.


This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.