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Magicians Creating Intimacy During a Performance

Aug 4, 2008
I love the intimacy of close-up magic and especially the challenging work of maintaining a variety of relationships with several people at the same time. This maintenance is achieved in many ways, though ultimately much of it comes down to sigh, sound and touch. Glances, words and physical contact.

Of course, very few routines are constructed in such a way that you touch every member of the audience (without going to jail.) Though you can direct your comments towards a single member of a crowd, your words are usually heard by everyone present. Which is why, to first initiate and then develop different relationships with the individual personalities making up your audience, glances can often be the most effective means.

You glance at a spectator, then shift your glance to a second spectator, and as your glance shifts, the first spectator glances at a third spectator. And so it goes, everyone ceaselessly "checking in" with each other even as you all take part in the group activity of creating the magic effect. A glance takes but a moment to deliver and receive, and in that moment an incredible amount of information and feeling can be conveyed. At the same time, glances can be completely private, even while surrounded by other people. And unlike words said above a whisper, every glance can be sublimely tailored to the moment and recipient.

Even a fleeting glance directly into the eyes of another human being is a multi-layered event analogous to two mirrors suddenly turned to face each other, creating an opportunity for an almost infinite interplay. Looking into the eyes of a member of the audience, I see them just as surely as they see me. And they see that I see them. And I see that they see me. And so on.

During a performance of close-up magic, I am forever shifting my gaze from participant to participant, and as the show unfolds, these glances acquire a history, even a familiarity. As a result, we begin to see each other in a richer, more individual light. When I look into someone's eyes, it is as if I have just dropped a penny into a well with no idea of how far it may fall. Sometimes I discover the well is frozen and the penny's descent is stopped dead. More often, the waters are more receptive. And quite regularly, the coin falls deeper than I can gauge.

My job as a performing artist is to follow the coin and make the most of wherever it lands. Words and touch are undoubtedly transcendent tools, but when it comes to nurturing unique, individual relationships in a close-up magic setting, the eyes definitely have it.
About the Author
Jay Sankey is a true magician's magician and is widely considered to be one of the most original thinkers and finest magic teachers alive today. He is also one of the most prolific magic creators on the planet. Visit http://www.sankeymagic.com for more information about Jay and Sankey Magic.
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