Cardistry vs Magic: Where Should you Start?
And here’s a little disclaimer for you…
You might find this post mildly infuriating if you’re a massive cardistry fan, the thing is, at The Daily Magician we’re not it’s biggest fan. Not to say we don’t find it impressive or that it doesn’t take hours of painstaking work in order to become as good as many people are… It’s just that within a performance we feel as if it removes a certain sort of well… Magic…
Today we did something a bit special for you, we took two of our writers here at The Daily Magician… Which constitutes… Well actually all of them. And we put together their opinions. Below you’ll find the perspective of two magicians on the same topic.
So let’s get started with Benji.
The ‘Nitty-Gritty’ (Benji’s View)
I hate cardistry.
Actually, let me rephrase that…
I hate when MAGICIANS use cardistry in their PERFORMANCES.
(I actually quite like cardistry as a ‘standalone’ art.)
There’s simply not much room for crossover between the two, in my humble opinion.
When you open your show with a seven-packet-dragon-rotation-reversal-flip-cut, there’s only ONE thing racing through your spectator’s minds:
“Huh! This guy can handle cards pretty well. I bet he could do all kinds of sneaky things with those hands and a deck of cards.”
So later, when you proceed to whip out some real miracle-class effects, your audience explains it all away as just being ‘good with the cards’—even if you didn’t use any sleight of hand!
Here’s another way to look at it.
The legendary Dai Vernon was fond of the concept of ‘naturalness’ in magic. According to Vernon, nothing in your magic should look ‘unnatural.’
In my opinion, that alone rules out 99% of cardistry.
Furthermore…the whole point of sleight of hand is that the more ‘invisible’ your sleights are, the better.
So if Vernon’s approach to sleight-of-hand is like hiding in the corner of the room at the party avoiding questions, cardistry is like standing in the middle of the room shouting about how good you are while chugging beer…naked.
Watch one of the true masters like Tamariz or Dani DaOrtiz to see this. They don’t perform fancy cuts and flourishes between routines. They barely shuffle the cards properly.
Heck, Tamariz drops cards on PURPOSE to make himself look ‘clumsy.’
This way, when the magic happens, it actually FEELS magical. It feels like a shared experience—the magician is experiencing the magic WITH the audience…rather than being the guy making it all happen with his ‘fancy hands.’
So here’s my rule:
The only time ‘cardistry’ should be used in magic is when it strengthens the actual magic and, most importantly, seems like magic itself!
I was recently rereading the hit card magic book ‘The Paper Engine’ by Aaron Fisher, and I stumbled on this quote…
(it contains a lesson that I think all card magicians should learn)
“Lee Asher, the talented Las Vegas card man, used to tell me card handlers can be classified in two groups: either diamonds or pearls. Pearls are subtle, smooth, and elegant.
As beautiful as pearls may be, they often aren’t appreciated by the unrefined.
A diamond, though it is flashier, is no less beautiful. Diamonds are shining and bright. Diamonds sparkle.”
Maybe you think this is just a glorified metaphor that says a lot without saying all that much.
But maybe it goes a little deeper than that.
See, what I think Aaron is saying is (in far less words) more or less this:
Just because something is ‘flashy’ doesn’t necessarily make it any less magical.
(there’s a lot of valuable lessons embedded in that statement, so reread and bookmark it)
In other words, there IS a ‘middle ground’ between cardistry and magic.
Before I hand over to Jacob, here’s a personal story that contains a valuable lesson on this topic:
WARNING: This is an embarrassing story to retell, so feel free to stop reading now. (please).
Still with me?
Okay, here goes:
Although i’m not usually a ‘sleight of hand guy’, there was always one move i REALLY wanted to master.
It’s called ‘Instant Replay’ and was invented by legendary magician Paul Harris.
In this move, one card in your right hand flips over in the air and lands back flat on the top of the deck.
It looks incredible, but as 14-year-old me soon discovered—it’s HARD.
I can’t tell you how many hours I sat in front of my ipad camera, trying desperately to nail this move.
Rewinding the tutorial, trying to catch the subtle differences that make this move really pop.
It took me longer than I like to admit, but I eventually got this move ‘down’ so I could perform it reliably whenever I wanted to.
But here’s the embarrassing part:
In all the years since I sweated over mastering this move, I can’t remember a single time I’ve used it in a REAL performance.
All my effort…and the result is a move I only perform to amuse myself while practicing.
Here’s the lesson.
(Actually, two lessons.)
Putting hard work in is simply ‘the cost’ of unlocking some of the best moves in magic.
But there’s no point putting that work in if you aren’t going to actually use said move.
The ‘Nitty Gritty’ Part 2, Jacob’s Opinion
So I have a confession for you all… and I know it might not be a popular one, so don’t rush to the unsubscribe button too quickly…
I don’t like Dynamo…
Okay, okay, now before you jump on me, don’t get me wrong I think he’s extremely talented and I like him, ya’ know as a person…
I mean hell, I read his autobiography as a kid, I remember the hours I spent sitting in the library wishing I was the English prodigy magician the whole world knew about.
The problem for me and this is of course just personal opinion… Is that his magic is far too cardistry looking.
I mean let’s just take the dynamo shuffle for one, it looks really pretty but when you get down to it, it’s pretty useless…
…what’s worse is the moment you do it, you’ll have the WHOLE audience looking at your hands for the rest of the performance.
I mean MAYBE it’s just me, and MAYBE it’s just jealousy but I’m just not into his magic…
You definitely can see the difference when you watch performers such as Juan Tamariz, Dani Daortiz or Aaron fisher…
They want the audience looking ANYWHERE but their hands…
So I grabbed two videos for you:
And here’s Juan Tamariz at work:
One of these videos is far less viral, but a far better performance in my opinion.
The thing with magic is (in my humble opinion) you want the audience to actually start thinking the only way you could have possibly done what they had done was through real magic. That’s how you feel at the end of Juan Tamariz’s performance, I mean you really start questioning the reality of magic…
The problem with Dynamo’s performance is by the end you’re not really surprised by what he did, I mean look at how he handles the cards… The wow factor of that itself is completely in line with the trick you just saw. So is magic real? Well of course not, Dynamo is just really good with his hands.
Please feel free to disagree with us… I mean maybe we’re wrong, it’s not like we’re the magic circle or anything… I mean roast us in the comments all you like we want to hear the other side of things. But for now, that’s everything on Cardistry vs Magic!