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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #1 
This past Saturday's "edition" of the 'Saturday Session', was great.  Not because there was a ton of magic performed and/or explained, but the resulting conversation.

If you are not attending, I urge you to register and watch.  Even if not performing, you have the opportunity to have a dialogue about the magic and to ask questions or otherwise add to the discussion.  There is a lot to be learned in the commentary.

One area that I thought was worthy of discussion was the whole "Be natural" quote from Dai Vernon.  I did a quick search and saw some threads dealing with it, but nothing major jumped out at me.  So please indulge me as I give some things to think about.

The issue came up during a discussion of the Elmsley Count.  There was discussion as to whether people typically would count cards a certain way or not.  And would it matter if the cards began in dealing grip, etc.

My point was that in my observation there is no "normal".  And even if there was, it doesn't necessarily translate into "natural".

So did Vernon mean be "normal"?  

As I mentioned Saturday, my wife and I are lucky to have a nice group of friends that we do things with on a regular basis.  One of those is to gather to play card games.

You can imagine that I spend a lot of time watching how they each handle cards.  How they shuffle, deal, etc.

My observation is that there is no "normal".  Each one has his/her own style.  I mentioned that one woman, who happens to be named Karen, actually does a coarse faro shuffle to mix the cards, then a few overhand shuffles.  She butts the cards and does the typical 'rock-and-weave'.  I doubt she's ever nailed a perfect In-Faro, but they are weaving just the same.

Most do some variation of a riffle shuffle with the cards in the hands, only using the table to press down against.  None have ever performed a riffle shuffle with the cards beginning on the table in the "casino style" procedure.  None.

So in my mind the question isn't about being "normal", it is more about being "natural" and I think natural can vary from person to person.  

The important thing, I believe it that it should not look "contrived".  I mean, some action that appears "out of place".  There is a range of procedure that could be considered "natural" but when you stray beyond the line, it invites suspicion.

We've all seen sleights that jumped out at us and we immediately knew there was a "move" taking place.  Why?  Was it because it was contrived?  Did it look out of place with the rest of the performance?

Getting back to the discussion last Saturday.  I mentioned using the dribble flourish as a cover for either a single card control or a pass.  I intend to do a video and post it up because I didn't do a decent job of demonstrating and also had a terrible camera angle.  Still trying to sort that all out.

But the idea, I said, was that I will typically dribble the cards when I'm performing.  Nothing big, just a gentle dribble.  Either to show that I'm not controlling the cards or just as a "nervous tick" type of thing.  The point is, the audience gets used to it.  I make it "normal" or "natural" for me.  They get conditioned to it, to accept it, and then I use that to my advantage.

Another way you can use that is in tricks such as the cups and balls.  If you are seated and you don't have the load balls in you pockets, but in your lap, have you ever felt weird about retrieving them just prior to loading?  Do you, like me, think they'll notice that your hand dropped to your lap? And wonder what you're up to?  Well one way to eliminate that is to rest your hands below the table frequently.  What creates suspicion in the mind of the spectators is when you only "go south" right before the final loads.  If you begin the routine by establishing that you are relaxed and that when you are relaxed, you sometimes drop your hand down to your thigh, they will become numb to it.  You have made it "natural".  But to be clear, your attitude matters.  You have to seem relaxed and casual.  

Watch some of your favorite magicians on video.  Do they have any idiosyncrasies or little things they do to condition the audience?  Do they establish their own set of "norms" and then take advantage of them.  Have you watched Slydini lately?  See if you can spot the points at which he uses conditioning to create the right atmosphere for magic.

I hope this is food for thought.  These are the kinds of things we can discuss during the Saturday Sessions.  So join in the conversation! 
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arthur stead

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Reply with quote  #2 

You’ve raised some very good points, RayJ.  Especially about “conditioning” the audience to your personal idiosyncrasies, and about being relaxed and natural about it.  I consider all that to be part of misdirection, which is one of my favorite things to work on.  Slydini and other giants of magic have so much to offer on this topic.

Naturalness:  Although behind the scenes I work hard to make my sleights impossible to spot, in actual performance I am not a flashy card handler.  I purposely make it seems as if my shuffles and handling of the deck are slightly sloppy and haphazard.  I use this to my advantage when controlling cards and executing sleights.  

Elegance:  I also always go at a “slow and steady” pace.  For me personally, this helps to create that relaxed and natural feeling.  It also gives the appearance to the audience that everything is fair and above suspicion.  Doing a deliberately slow Elmsley Count at my fingertips, for example, creates that illusion.

Misdirection:  An absolute necessity!  I employ and adapt various misdirection techniques for each and every one of my routines.


 

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #3 
Quote:
Originally Posted by arthur stead

You’ve raised some very good points, RayJ.  Especially about “conditioning” the audience to your personal idiosyncrasies, and about being relaxed and natural about it.  I consider all that to be part of misdirection, which is one of my favorite things to work on.  Slydini and other giants of magic have so much to offer on this topic.

Naturalness:  Although behind the scenes I work hard to make my sleights impossible to spot, in actual performance I am not a flashy card handler.  I purposely make it seems as if my shuffles and handling of the deck are slightly sloppy and haphazard.  I use this to my advantage when controlling cards and executing sleights.  

Elegance:  I also always go at a “slow and steady” pace.  For me personally, this helps to create that relaxed and natural feeling.  It also gives the appearance to the audience that everything is fair and above suspicion.  Doing a deliberately slow Elmsley Count at my fingertips, for example, creates that illusion.

Misdirection:  An absolute necessity!  I employ and adapt various misdirection techniques for each and every one of my routines.


 


Arthur, this statement from your reply is so important...

" I employ and adapt various misdirection techniques for each and every one of my routines."

This is what we mean when we say to think about your magic.  It is important to identify the moments within your routine where misdirection is desirable to help direct the spectator away from an action.

Good stuff!

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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #4 
Vernon is also reported to have said "if you can't make your false shuffle look like your regular shuffle, then make your regular shuffle look like your false shuffle" ... or words to that effect (I think he was actually talking about double turn-overs).

I think this matches well with what Ray and Arthur are saying ... your moves should be self-consistent.  Even if you hold cards like no-one else on Earth has ever held cards before, if you always hold them the same way and it looks comfortable for you, and you don't call attention to it then the audience should just accept it as normal for you.
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JR Russell

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Reply with quote  #5 
I too enjoyed the Saturday Session and on this 'be natural' topic, I remember getting into a discussion with a couple other magicians at a convention up here in Seattle. One magician was doing a double lift that did not look like something most people would do and a couple guys called him out on it BUT in his hands, it looked effortless and smooth! It was 'natural' for him for somebody else it would not have 'worked'... to me 'natural' is not being Dai Vernon or Harry but being me, convincing, smooth, ... natural :-)


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Mbreggar

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Reply with quote  #6 
Agree with all and thanks, Ray for helping to promulgate this important topic.

I am friendly with a very well known magician who frequently has panic attacks before performing. Once his performance gets going, however, he’s fine, though sometimes all this manifests itself slight tremors in his fingers. Interestingly, he has “accommodated” this situation by altering his methodologies a little. (Personal thrill here, because some of that accommodation meant him performing a few of my effects which are heavy on performance and light on sleights).

So,  he actually has two “settings” of “normal”. He is very aware of this and has thought through all of this is great detail. That’s the sign of a professional.
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Tom Kracker

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Reply with quote  #7 
One thing that I love doing is practicing sleights in multiple handlings.  I do Elmsley Counts by the sides, with them down parallel to the table.  I do them by the corner (right fingers holding the back right corner, left hand taking the cards), I do them vertical up in the air (usually by the sides).  I have even practiced starting with my left hand just for fun.

I am right handed, but when playing card games, I enjoy switching how I deal, just to see if anyone notices.  I change from right hand deal to left hand deal.  I do it so much, I don't actually know what is normal.  It's just smooth and natural.  I also shuffle in about 5 or 6 different ways when playing cards, for fun.

I totally agree with Ray said about "it that it should not look "contrived".

In college, I would even hand the deck to people and ask them to flip over the top card, just to study and see how everyone flips the card over.  There were probably 10 or more variations.  So, yeah, there is no "normal", but each looked natural for every different person.

Then later, I figured out to practice a move how it would look if I actually did the real action...  such as with a French Drop.  I practiced to see what it would look like if I actually took the coin with my right hand from my left fingertips.  Then later, I would work to make the move look like the actual motion.  Or if I can't make them match, I change to make them consistent, so they don't think about it.  I also like what Arthur said about being sloppy/haphazard, partially because I am not as suave and smooth as Martin Nash was.  At times I am smooth, and I would have to practice to make it less smooth to make it match my typical card handling capability. 

I'm hoping my recent performance video demonstrated some natural feel.

This is a really good topic to keep discussing!

Tom

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #8 
Glad you liked the topic T.K. Maybe some others will share some thoughts. The video you shared in the other thread showed a very relaxed and natural approach. There were no furtive, guilty-looking moves at all.
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