Fluidity within magical performance.

May 30th, 2008 | Jason Brumbalow | Filed Under General

Fluidity within Magical Performance


Once we’re a little advanced in magic, one of the main things we’re told is to plan out our performance, our script, even choreograph the main points within the routine as much as we can, but there are many occasions when it pays us to leave the script behind and concentrate on coincidence and happenstance.


This can be called adapting to your circumstances, or reacting to the unknown situations that you never want to encounter – but I along with many Magicians call this ability Fluidity, or being more Fluid in your performance.


Circumstances often dictate that we have to move into unknown territory, away from our practiced and polished routines – but are you confident enough with your knowledge and experience to be able to do this?


Some degree of fluidity is needed in any presentation – otherwise, how would you recover from an error? What would happen if halfway through a routine, one of the spectators who’d up to now been well behaved, turned to the others and said “I’ve seen this one, it’s the one where he makes the card end up in his wallet”?


You *could* follow the trick through and end with a card to wallet, but is that the only outcome for that series of sleights?


One example from a performance of mine, for a good friend’s Aunt and Uncle, came halfway through the Two Card Monte – after I’d switched just one of the cards over, and asked her whether she thought she was holding the Spade or the Club, she replied with a laugh “Neither, I’ve got the Ace of Hearts!”


Now, my Two Card Monte changes the Black Queens to the Red Aces, and I know that there was no way that I’d flashed, or that she’d seen me perform this before, I knew she must have been playing at “fool the magician”.


Fortunately though, a quick unseen glimpse at my deck told me that she *was* holding the Ace of Hearts – at this point, why do I need to carry on to the end of the effect, I’ve seemingly changed one of the cards into the card she named. I replaced the other cards on top of the deck, dropped the deck into my pocket, looked her straight in the eye and said “The Ace of Hearts? Now, that’d be something wouldn’t it?” I left a brief pause, still maintaining eye contact then told her to turn the card over.


To say that the reaction was stunned would be on the modest side, she literally squealed and laughed – and just because I had the presence of mind to change my presentation halfway through.


I’m not saying that this is always a good thing to do, there are many hundreds of circumstances where leaving your tried and trusted presentations and going out on a limb would be a bad idea, but just like all the sleights we practice for hours on end, it’s another weapon in our arsenal.


How can we practice this though? Is it even possible to think of all the circumstances that can occur, that would give us chance to exercise our creative muscles?


Personally I don’t feel it is, I believe fluidity can only come from real performing experience.


You may mess up on occasion, heaven knows I have, countless times – but as long as you remember two of the golden rules, I don’t think you’ll go too far wrong.


1. In most performances, there is no need to tell your spectator exactly what’s going to happen – would you introduce an effect by saying “In this presentation, I shall have you choose and sign a card, from where it will continuously rise to the top of the deck”? or even “I’d like you to take a card, and once you’ve signed it and replaced in in the deck, I shall turn the back from red to blue”? Leave the ending of the presentation a complete mystery, and only ever tell your spectators what’s happened, not what *will* happen.


2. Always, and I mean always, have an out – have some way of salvaging your routine if all were to go wrong. Fortunately, there are many ways of doing this.


Answer the following questions for yourself, and see what results you come up with


1. What would you do if the spectator purposefully changed their mind on the card they’d selected?


Would you accept what they say and go with the flow – even if it means you’re going to end up looking like a bit of a fool if you carry on with the same effect? Would you change the ending of the effect to encompass this new card too? Would you be nervous at the challenge in front of you and clam up?


2. What would you have done in the situation I mentioned in the Two Card Monte Performance?


Would you also have forgotten the traditional end of the effect? Would you have corrected her and carried on with the ending – which in my opinion would have been weaker now that one of the kicker cards has been mentioned? Would you have classified her as a tough cookie or heckler, and dealt with her accordingly?


3. What are your outs? Do you have something for everything you do?


Would you be able to change the ending to the effect so drastically, yet done with enough subtlety that makes the mental change of gear invisible? Would you simply apologise for the trick going wrong and move on to the next item in your routine?


Answer these three questions, and you’ll have taken the first step towards a more fluid performance. – to quote Louis Pasteur “Chance favours the prepared mind”



  1. Clifford, Goa , India on:

    ‘Fluidity with magic performance’ an excellently written article has given me real insight in performing magic in the Real World conditions. I am sure every performer of magic has come across this situation. And I must say the author of the article has addressed the “meat of the issue – fluidity” in a most complete manner. I personally feel this is where the presence of mind of the performer comes into play or in the words from Mark Wilsons cyclopedia of Magic- ‘ The study and Practice of magic developes versatility, the ability to handle emergencies while under pressure….’ Looking forward for more such write ups regards Clifford N Parakh , Goa, India

  2. nicholas lim on:

    tough cookies are getting more common and tougher to handle.for example,im frm singapore n people are gettin to know how some of our tricks or sleights work thru Youtube or certain websites.they wan to play a fool n see if u are e real deal.but e tougher they get,e more experienced one becomes,able to plan to repel such people n suppress them instead.

  3. That’s right. I’ve had one bad experience dealing with hecklers, and I must admit at that time I was inexperienced and was naive to think that there won’t ever be people trying to ruin your performance. A few months down the road, and I’m actually thankful for it, for had it not happened, I would not have learnt and really put a lot of effort into working out Plan B’s for my performances. I’m from Singapore too, and I’ve met a few hecklers since that incident, and I’m happy that my practice has been fruitful.