Over the past two years I have become convinced that comparing levitation and animation to other forms of magic is like comparing calculus to algebra. If light, angles, and gravity are the common denominators of all magic, levitation and animation requires an understanding of these variables that goes beyond all other forms of magic, but the rewards go far beyond any other effect.
The Essence of Visual Magic
Levitation and animation is the epitome of visual magic. No effect or type of magic presents the impossible so directly. A magician who practices this area of magic might never become one of the greats--he may not go down in the history of magic and his name may quickly be forgotten by other magicians--but a successful demonstration for anyone unfamiliar with the art of magic will leave them with an unforgettable experience. When your layman friend tells you he saw another magician and you ask them what that magician did, how often can he repeat the exact effect? "he was doing something with cards" they say.
Now guess what they will say to others once you show them something float in the air.
The last challenge
Someone once told me that a magician's final and greatest challenge is to convince himself that he is doing whatever it is the audience thinks he is doing. He must believe it too (this is one of the reasons I tattooed the word believe on my ankle). Successful demonstration of levitation and animation instantly accomplishes this for the magician. That quarter or ring is really floating in the air. That fork is moving right in front of you, and it looks the same for you as it does for the audience.
But the double edged sword is startlingly sharp here--one wrong angle, or ray of light, and the illusion shatters faster than any other affect you will ever perform. So few magicians dedicate themselves to this area of magic--not only because of this risk, but because of the 'second how'--that is, the challenge of living one's life as an animator and a levitator.
The temptation of easy exits
In magic, one always desires to end clean, in a situation that can be examined and left as the magician found it. The 'exit strategy' is crucial. In the initial stages of learning levitation and animation, the magician is tempted by the seductively easy exit that levitation and animation offers--of simply breaking one's rig and leaving it to mingle with the dust in the air like a strand of a spiderweb, never noticed by the audience due to its practically invisible nature. But the magician soon realizes that this eliminates the possibility of reusing his rig, and begins forcing himself to rescue his setup. This discipline--of saving the rig after it has done its job, so that the same effect can be presented to a different audience on the other side of the room without having to leave the environment and reset--represents an advancement for the levitator/animator. When you get home with your rig still ready to go, you know you are becoming an adept practitioner.
The two 'hows'
As in any effect, there are two "how's"--the first is, how a magician does it, the second is how a magician lives in order to support the first 'how.' How do you consolidate the possessions you carry so you have room for your cards, or coins, or whatever? What do you tell someone when they ask you why you carry your keys around your neck because you need to make room in your pockets? How do you travel/live with doves? How does Johnny Ace Palmer always have baby chickens?
Living with animation and levitation takes the second 'how' to its own unique level. The work required to go through the world as a practitioner of levitation and animation is not for the faint of heart. It not only takes immense patience, but also the ability to let go when the effect becomes impossible to perform. How will you react when your setup breaks because the girl you've been seeing strokes her hand through your hair, or the best friend you haven't seen in ages bear hugs you at the house party you were going to perform at? Feeling your rig break due to an uncontrollable environment is one of the most heart-breaking experiences to a magician. And yet it forces one to learn the vital life lesson of letting go, because the alternative--of not letting loved ones touch you, restricting your movement through the world--is the antithesis of living as a performing magician, and therefore the antithesis of living. Life forces you to let go when faced with sudden loss, but it also rewards us with unexpected opportunities. Wait till you roll out of bed while on a trip and realize that somehow, miraculously, your loop or rig didn't break while you were sleeping. It's there, waiting for you to make something float.
How quickly does the magician realize that buying loops is not cost effective, requiring one to learn how to tie his own--a lesson in frustration and patience resulting from the absolute calm and concentration required to make enough loops for a night out? How many reels, motors, and batteries will the magician waste his money on before realizing that the only props for walking the animation and levitation path is wax, string, tape, and an evolved perception of angles, light and gravity? I honor, admire, and respect Yigal Mesika for revolutionizing this area of magic and providing the market with products that help a performer take the first step (his credit card loop holder is absolute genius and a permanent, required tool for loopwork), but ultimately I believe the levitator/animator must go beyond most of these products.
Conclusion, and a parting loop tip
Get your loop into position by placing your hand, palm down, on your thigh, just above your knee, rolling the loop into position by rubbing your hand up your thigh towards your hip. I'm not sure if this method is taught anywhere else, but it is the best method for getting that loop into position.
If you are a magician considering this form of the art, I hope you have foudn the above helpful, and inspiring enogh to make you take the leap. Start with Yigal Mesika--his DVDs and his props. Learn how to tie your own loops. Check out Morgan Streebler's Spun, and the loops DVDs from ellusionist. Enjoy the transition from enjoying an easy exit, to committing to the work required to turn it down.
But most of all--do not be afraid of the second how.
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