Street magic started out very simply as being just magic tricks performed in the streets. This traditional form of the art is also known as busking, which is the act of performing live in public places in exchange for tips or donations. This kind of magic has existed for thousands of years in many different countries but there is very little mention of it in writing despite its long history.
Quite recently, street magic has become a popular performance style after being showcased in the 1997 ABC television special “David Blaine: Street Magic”. Since then, many other magicians have come onto the scene, among them being Criss Angel with his MindFreak television series.
This performance style has now evolved into something else known as “guerrilla magic”. Essentially this is a style where the magician performs a few illusions in a public place for a non-paying, unsuspecting audience. Due to the seemingly unrehearsed and unprepared nature of the illusions, the spectators will usually react with total shock and sometimes, even fear and panic.
Indeed, street magic has a tremendous impact on the audience when learned correctly and performed well. Besides just knowing the secret and practising hard so that you can perform each trick smoothly, the presentation is also very important. You should not present your magic as merely “tricks”. It is okay to be a bit mysterious and tell the audience that you would like to show them a “phenomenon” or “something strange”.
There is an old saying: “The magician is an actor playing the part of a magician”. Yes, your acting skills play a big role here. Play it up and build up the suspense until the climax of the trick erupts like a volcano. That is how you get the incredible spectator reactions that you see in the street magic TV specials.
So where can you go to learn the latest and best street magic tricks? I highly recommend Ellusionist which is the one-stop online resource for street magic. Here, you can find many of the tricks made popular by David Blaine and Criss Angel. There are also many wonderful tricks created by some young, upcoming, talented magicians. One of them is Wayne Houchin. If you haven’t heard of him yet, I am sure you will hear a lot about him soon.
What I like about Ellusionist is that almost all the training is done through high-quality, well-edited DVDs. When it comes to learning sleight-of-hand moves, I think reading from a book is just not good enough. Brad Christian is the instructor magician for most of the DVDs and he is a superb teacher as well as performer. His teaching is crystal-clear and everything is repeatedly shown from various camera angles.
What are you waiting for? Go ahead, choose a few of your favourite tricks. If you’re just starting out, don’t be too ambitious. Learn and master a few tricks at a time. Practise hard and when you are ready, perform for your friends and family first. This way, you won’t be as nervous as performing for complete strangers. Finally when you are confident enough, go to a public place where people are not too busy and look like they won’t mind watching a magic trick. Parks, school fields, shopping malls, and cafes are good places to start.
I suggest that you do not pass out a hat and ask for money after your performance. This is because you might need permission and a permit from your local authorities if you are going to actually do “busking” in those locations. Another reason is that asking for money turns the miracles that you have just shown them into just a paid show. I feel that a lot of the impact and the mystery is lost. It would be better to do properly scheduled paid shows for people who have specifically invited you. Use your impromptu performance for people on the street as a training ground to hone your skills and routines.
Street magic is a powerful branch of magic. Learn it well, perform it well and enjoy!