Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Art of Card Flourishes

I am passionate about sleight-of-hand card magic; the dexterity, subtleties, timing and fluidity make it poetry in motion.

But as a general rule, the better sleight of hand is performed, the less you see. Perfectly-executed techniques should be invisible, so that the audience is left with the impression that they have witnessed real magic.

This of course should be the goal of any magician, but I sometimes feel that it's a shame that so much hard work is put into cultivating skills that are often as beautiful and amazing as the magic tricks being performed, and yet are never seen.

Magicians Penn and Teller made the point that sometimes magical methods are actually more entertaining than the tricks they effect, an idea they put to good use in routines such as their cigarette trick, or when Teller was run over by a truck.

Cardistry - the beauty of prestidigitation

An exciting development has been the rise of cardistry - the performance of elaborate card cuts, shuffles, spreads, fans and other displays of prestidigitation, as an art in their own right.

Cardistry is in contrast to magic, in that the techniques are far from being hidden, rather they are the entertainment. However, cardistry and magic can complement each other. The grace of flourishes sometimes makes a magical performance more pleasing to watch, and adds to the sense that the magician is capable of doing amazing things. There are also people who perform cardistry in its own right, without combining it with magic tricks.

Cardistry is not new, you can see photos of Houdini performing cuts and card spreads. Before specialising in escapology, Houdini was famed for his sleight of hand and was known as the King of Cards.

But in recent years, cardistry has been taken to new levels, with a growing number of practitioners developing increasingly skilful moves. The rise of the cardistry community has created a healthy competition that drives members to develop more impressive flourishes. The highly visual nature of cardistry, and its fast and flashy moves, have led to it being dubbed the magician's equivalent of extreme sports.

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