Something compact is useful. A pithy act is refreshing. A streamlined design is elegant. Slim is beautiful as opposed to a body that qualifies for the reality TV show “The Biggest Loser.”
Now before someone accuses me of sexism, my point is this: I’m musing about compact things in the context of a magic show.
The thought about compact magic came to me recently when I was breaking in a new illusion. To introduce the prop and prove the absence of trickery, I need to turn the illusion several times, a necessary evil that slows down the performance. I suppose it also deprives the act the elegance I want it to have.
I had to think long and hard to choreograph the action with lesser number of revolutions of the prop. I have not yet found a way that satisfies me. I’m still working on it.
Anyway, this brings me to a principle which I discovered a long time ago. I have written about it before. Let me quote myself below, as I think it is an important principle many magicians do not know about and have not taken advantage of it.
It is the principle of Economy of Motion. It simply means accomplishing a task with the least number of motion, action or process. In factories, Economy of Motion saves a lot of time and money. In the bureaucracy, it prevents hassles and opportunities for graft and corruption.
In magic, Economy of Motion means to streamline, to make compact, and to systematize your performance’s choreography, stage blocking, and overall movements.
It also means to condense (yes, economy of motion applies to patter, too). Tape record your performance and analyze your patter. How many times do you repeat yourself? Prune down your patter and throw away the repetitive phrases and excess expressions like “you know,” “all right,” and “okay.”
Eliminate the fumbling-magician look by organizing your props in the order that you will use them. That way you don’t have to dig, fish, and send a search party to find your breakaway wand among the jumble of silks, ribbons, and other props in your roll-on suitcase.
Here’s the brutal truth: the more motions you take to do something, the longer the audience has to wait for the effect to happen. In today’s furiously fast-paced MTV era, a five-to-six-second stage-wait is long enough to agitate and bore some audiences.
In routining an act, a Filipino magician may want to think about all his activities during the show and decide how he can modify his actions to reduce motion. Economy of motion can help him achieve clarity of effect which, in turn, leads to elegance.