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Many moons  ago, I wrote “The Magic of Reaction“.

It’s a cutting-edge advice on how to manipulate audience volunteers onstage. The idea is to provoke reactions from the volunteers, so they react suitably and convey to the rest of the audience the magic and mystery they see in the hands of the magician.

I had this theory that audience members in their seats, away from the action on stage, can still understand, appreciate and enjoy the magic, provided the assistants on stage communicate the magic as it happens by way of their facial expressions and overall body language.

I used the photo above to illustrate my point. The boy on the left side of the girl in green dress is wearing a naughty smile. He is watching her reflection on the floor. We don’t see what he sees, but we seem to have a general idea what it is just by looking at his facial reaction.

A reader of that post wrote to complain: “But the other girl beside him is looking at the same direction. You should not say things if you were not even there. It may not be what it looks like.”

Obviously, he missed my point, so let me amplify what I wrote. Here’s my response:

nfureflections-3Hi, thanks for your comment.

“You should not say things if you were not even there” is a good folk advice. Unfortunately, most audiences don’t follow it.

Trust me on this. I’m such an untrustworthy person that even I don’t trust myself…but trust me on this.

Even if 99 percent of the audience is on their seats and don’t exactly see with their own eyes the things the magician shows the volunteer onstage, they still see vicariously, psychologically, deductively or even psychically what the volunteer sees (or think he sees) by reading his reactions, facial expressions and overall physical demeanor.

The audience forms an opinion of what’s going on the stage based on these physiological reactions.

They see and form conclusions about things even if they were not there onstage in contradiction to the sage advice you offered. That’s what audiences are made of. They read people’s reactions onstage and form opinions, rightly or wrongly. The wise performer must employ the principle of reaction (which, henceforth, I call “The Leodini Reaction Principle” because nobody seems to have discovered it yet) and make the reactions work in his favor.

nfureflections-5The fact that you notice “the other girl beside him is looking at the same direction” and conclude that “it may not be what it looks like” proves my point. “The other girl” has a different reaction from the boy. In fact, I think she lacks any reactions at all. Still by watching “the other girl,” you conclude “it may not be what it looks like”.

But how would you know that? You were not there, too (unless, of course, you’re one of the persons in the photograph). If you were not there, how do you know “it may not be what it looks like”?

Because, like most normal human beings, you look at people and form opinions based on what you glean from their facial expressions.

Is this sophistry? Am I argumentative? Am I belaboring my point? All of the above?

I’m sorry if I’m confusing you instead of enlightening you. My motto is “Eschew Obfuscation”. But I have a talent for muddling issues.

The truth is, no one can tell what really is on the reflection. Who cares what it is? This is a lesson for magic performers. This is not a court of law where one must tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Reality is not important in magic performances. It is the illusion created through some diabolical dodges that matters for us magic performers.

In the picture, the reality could be that of a mouse running around on the floor. But if the magician can make the guy react with a naughty sparkle in his eyes, then the audience will not see the reality of a mouse but the illusion of an underwear. If he has created that effect, then the magician is said to have done his job as a conjurer.

In Koran’s Medallion, the performer shows the volunteer the predicted number “inscribed” on the medallion. She reads it off (eyes wide, voice trembling with excitement), and the audience goes wild. How could the number be engraved on the medallion before it’s being chosen randomly? That’s impossible!

Of course, that’s impossible. It couldn’t be done. That’s why the magician/mentalist has to manipulate the situation, including the volunteer, to convey the illusion that the numbers were etched on the medallion, instead of just written on it with a marking pen.

David Blaine did something ingenious on his street magic TV series. He emphasizes not only the tricks but also people’s reactions. He makes a big ado over how people scream, laugh, and go wild after seeing his performances. He turns simple card tricks into spectacular demonstrations of magic power.

Take special attention to the way he performs the Balducci levitation. The camera records the over-the-top reactions of people. They laugh, they shout, they scream, the run away—and they say something incredible. “He floated this high,” gesturing with their hands a three-foot high elevation.

The TV viewing lay public was not there when Blaine floated. But because of the reactions of the people on TV who swear that he floated by three-feet up in the air, they believed he levitated that high. If you were there, though, you would have seen he only lifted a few inches off the ground.

Going back to the picture, I’d like to invite you to look at it in the context of a magic performance. It is not what is actually on the reflection that is important, rather it is what you interpret from the reactions of the people on the picture that makes you see things in your mind. What is reality and what is on your mind could be two different things. An excellent magic performer makes sure you see what he wants you to see—even if if it’s not reality.

Stay magical,