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Topic: Dancers and Assistants
Message: Posted by: magicman222 (Feb 25, 2004 10:51PM)
Were do you guys find your dancers and assistants that help you with your magic? Is there some sort of a webisite or group, or do you have to call up some of your buds? thx
Message: Posted by: Michael Messing (Feb 25, 2004 11:26PM)
Finding assistants is one of the hardest parts of being an illusionist. I live near a large university and a good size community college. I put up a bunch of flyers, advertising the position and got no response. The main reason is that women are afraid it's a scam and that you're just a pervert. I put references, photos, etc. on the flyer and it didn't help.

The main way I have got assistants is through referrals. I got to know a dance teacher at the university and she will announce it to her classes when I need a new assistant. Since I have worked with four of her former students, she knows she can trust me.

I have also gone through a modeling agency before to find an assistant. That worked alright, except that the agency wants a cut of the assistant's pay. (I've since negotiated a one-time fee for finding an assistant.)

Since I've performed illusions for a while now, I usually get my assistants through my current assistants. If one of them will no longer be available, I get them to talk to their friends to see if anyone of them is interested. My current assistants are perfect for that because they know exactly what's involved.

The problem with assistants is keeping one for a reasonably long period of time. Unless you are working a lot of illusion shows, it is very sporadic work. I don't do enough illusion shows for an assistant to make it a full-time job. For my assistants, it's extra spending money while they go to school. Unfortunately, that means they move on when they graduate, move away, get a boyfriend that doesn't like them wearing the costume, etc. The turnover can be murder at times.

A lot of it will depend on where you live, as well. I have a friend who used to live in Las Vegas and he could find trained assistants very easily. He said most of the dancers there had worked in illusion shows already and were readily available.

Hope that helps a little.
Message: Posted by: M-Illusion (Feb 26, 2004 07:01AM)
We've built up relationships with dancers and instructors over time. I have a list of preferred dancers that are called, right down the list, until the spots are filled.

In a pinch, I've gone through talent agencies several times. I try to stay away from this whenever possible.

Contact dance studios, local college dance and theatre departments, local community theatres, etc. Those seem to be the best places to find them.
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Feb 28, 2004 11:40PM)
Assistants are cast members in a good show. Often they will make or break your show. If you do stage magic long enough they will prove that to you.

The amount of work you have and where it is will have a lot to do with what kind of assistants and cast members you can have. I've only been doing magic a little over four decades. So nothing has stabilized yet.

Many great assistants have the philosophy of “own your own magician”. These are frequently wives. My former wife was an actress and made a very good stage partner. However, I will also tell you that she had absolutely no interest in magic. When I traveled, I got someone else. She died many years ago. She was a great help for nearly twenty years. Frankly, I think what she liked best were the costumes and the travel. That was acceptable.

About a decade later, I found myself again in the clutches of another “own your own magician” cast member. This time she is a ballet dancer and former model. She adds a lot of class to my act. And she loves magic. In fact she is also a member of IBM and has her own magic stage act. There are times when we work together and separately. There are times when we assist each other.

Others have been dancers, models, college students, and singers. Dancers and models get the absolute first place with me. They are well trained in stage presence, movement and audience control. They speak the language of stage entertainment and they know the facilities and equipment. They listen to the music and the audience and understand the critical importance of timing. They know costuming, makeup, and are quick backstage to be on cue and ready as required. They recover from mistakes like nothing ever happened unexpectedly and they get right back into the act. When I say dancers I mean very extensively and formally trained ballet dancers. The Go-Go Girls of the 60s and 70s were of little help. When I say models the same applies again for runway models with show experience. Magic is about motion, timing and visual communication. Hopefully, an assistant is not just a delivery boy. Those are interruptions to the act. Re-planning the staging might make more sense.

I am a firm believer in paid rehearsals with cast members (assuming a paid show). I am also a firm believer in having your show structured so that if the wrong assistants appear, they don’t have to be in the show. Change the show.

Real show girls are some of the most talented people in the business. Part-time work is a fact of life for them. Be nice. They are reliable and you may get to work with them again. Frequently they are very connected. If you need a seamstress, a dentist, music arranged, a microphone repaired, your car fixed, or your doves and rabbit fed, they probably know someone that you don’t. (They know where to eat too!) It’s their town!

Other sources? Dancing teachers, music teachers, and people in the broadcast business often make good cast members too.

Never confuse a cast member with a volunteer! If the volunteers are better, don’t use the cast member. Limit your problems!

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: Kendrix (Feb 29, 2004 03:57PM)
I agree 100% with Bob. Dancers trained in Ballet, Jazz, etc are the best and easiest to work with. I have had the same assistant since '95 with some new help recently. Hip hop dancers don't work. I have tried them several times before.
Next, are models. I just shot a promo video using a model from the Home Shopping network in Tampa. She is tall, slender and was able to "fake" the illusions in a remarkably short period of time.
I think it is very difficult to find assistants that will stay with you. The work is intermittent in my case. All of mine have had other jobs at Disney, Universal, etc. I once placed an ad in the newspaper around the time of 9/11 and got over 60 responses.
Message: Posted by: HarbinJr. (Feb 29, 2004 08:08PM)
Message: Posted by: Lou Hilario (Mar 1, 2004 08:52AM)
I am curious to know how much should one pay a lady assistant. Is she paid by the hour or per show date? In my case, I deduct a certain percentage of my fee depending if it is an adult, family or corporate show. But still, I have no fixed fees for my assistants till now.
Message: Posted by: Rob Johnston (Mar 1, 2004 01:50PM)
I am fully against dancers in a magic show...but that is just me. I pay to see magic not some half-clad lady dancing on stage.

I am a fan of the capable assistant however.
Message: Posted by: Dayanara (May 21, 2004 10:12PM)
A dancer who is knowlegable in magic is the best you can get.

I totally agree with Bob...Except for the ballet dancer part. Modern dancers are just as good, if not more loose and fluid than ballet dancers. Modern is the expression of natural movement and...well...I'll just make another post out of it.
Message: Posted by: Big Daddy Cool (Jun 8, 2004 08:04PM)
How to get good performance partners...

Place casting notices through reputable acting and performing agencies or companies. You will find the talent, skill, knowledge, and desire you are looking for.

Try to find a dancer with acting experience. Magic is a dramatic form of theater. Many (not all) have a hard time understanding the nature of magic, but actors seem to grasp the motivation better.

But be warned, most serious performers do not wan to committ long term, so plan to replace your performance partners frequently.
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Nov 20, 2004 05:26PM)
On 2004-05-21 23:12, Dayanara wrote:
A dancer who is knowlegable in magic is the best you can get.

I totally agree with Bob...Except for the ballet dancer part. Modern dancers are just as good, if not more loose and fluid than ballet dancers. Modern is the expression of natural movement and...well...I'll just make another post out of it.


I'm not in disagreement with you. It is just that most normally accomplished dancers have put in their time "at the barre". The abilities to count music, move well and stay focused are priceless. I also love their ability to recover from mistakes. Dancers have a way of keeping things in forward motion that models don't always learn. The confidence shows! They understand where they have to be when and they get there.

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: Big Daddy Cool (Nov 22, 2004 04:43PM)
Since originally posting I have more to add.

I now have a call roster of 6 - 8 girls to serve as performance partners. Depending on the date, location and pay rate, will determine who takes the gig.

They all know the show, so only a little brush up rehearsal is needed.

Also, pay them well. Up to 50% if you must. They do a lot of work, and I gaurantee that if you pay well, word will get out and performers will be busting down your door to work with you. And they'll return, even if it is 6 months between gigs. Loyalty lies with the almighty green!
Message: Posted by: The Donster (Nov 23, 2004 11:24AM)
Lou Hilaro asked a very good Question how much do you pay? All I need is one to do a sub trunk. If I can't find one I'll toss the trunk in the garbage it's no good to me without someone to do it with.
Message: Posted by: Big Daddy Cool (Nov 26, 2004 09:00AM)
Even so, pay your performance partner well.

Why do you have to have a girl for the subtrunk anyway?
Message: Posted by: The Donster (Nov 30, 2004 11:41AM)
Why do I have to have a girl for the sub trunk there is a certain something that will be done and embarassing to me. While doing it, I can't actually explain why, without goofing it up for me. If you want, PM me.
Posted: Nov 30, 2004 12:46pm
Dayanara would make a Wonderful Assistant. Have you ever done Metamorphosis before Dayanara?
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Nov 22, 2008 06:02PM)
All dancers are not female! All assistants are not female! All magicians are not male! Think outside the box!

Assistants can be older or younger too!

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: Lothar (Nov 24, 2008 12:47PM)
On 2004-03-01 14:50, Rob Johnston wrote:
I am fully against dancers in a magic show...but that is just me. I pay to see magic not some half-clad lady dancing on stage. [/quote]

That's right! Half-clad men , though are welcome in my book. (Love you Sittah, Sophie Edelstein, and Melinda Saxe!)

There is a new magic act called "Seduction" which is a combo magic act and male stripper show. It looks pretty new, and they are looking for a road manager. I checked out their website and videos. I didn't see a lot of magic (floating champagne glass, other little stuff), but lots of beefcake.
Message: Posted by: yutszfung (Jan 12, 2009 12:20AM)
Usually school student would help you with a good rate. You might wanna give it a try.
Message: Posted by: Dr. Delusion (Jan 12, 2009 06:39PM)
That's where I recruited my main group of assistants, from a local high school. 2 of them played basketball and 2 were cheerleaders, and one was in track. Having 2 of the girls on the basketball team worked out really well because for 2 years we perform fund raising shows for the team. We made money and the team made money. They are all in collage now and only 1 had to drop out of the show due to attended collage out of state. Like Big Daddy mentioned, I pay them well. When I perform a large show everyone, including my sound man, get the same amount of money as I do. If a show is out of town I take some out for gas for myself and anyone else who had to drive to the show.
The only bad thing was that I nearly had to fire 2 of the girls. I live in Eugene Oregon and I'm a life long fan of the U of O Ducks, and the 2 girls went and enrolled at Oregon State.... The Ducks Hated Enemy !! If they weren't such good assistants I would have let them go.
Message: Posted by: fefe_fontane (Mar 9, 2009 02:35PM)
Read my previous posts about assisting. An assistant who knows magic, has believability in acting and can dance technically is many times considered to be one of the vital aspects for a complete show. Although many magicians do not condone using assistants, the usage of an assistant allows the magician to broaden their own personal abilities and add versatility to their show. I just recently did an amazing show where there were only 3 illusions I was in - but those three were more than enough to add the needed visuals and variety to the show. If anyone needs an assistant - please pm me for my information. I'm always willing to work and travel.

Also, if you want to read my article on assisting and duties of the assistant, let me know and I'll re-post it.
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Oct 31, 2009 09:17PM)
Something trained dancers have that is hard to fine in many others is that built in clock. They can count, count, count with total consistency while accomplishing something else at the same time. It can be priceless!

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: HMAC (Jan 10, 2010 05:07AM)
My assistant is my girlfriend. But we had some sort of argument about that. She actually considers that I am her assistant. How annoying.
Message: Posted by: Leland (Feb 2, 2010 06:54AM)
When I first started in Magic my daughter was my assistant and she was a dancer. When she moved on I went to her dance school found some one I thought would work and approaced her. Much to my surprise it worked. Maybe I got lucky that first time but since then I have gone back, I always ask for permission from the owners first, and have found that right person. Dancers are trained in movement and of course they are performers.
Message: Posted by: Ray Pierce (Jun 28, 2011 04:09AM)
On 2004-03-01 14:50, Rob Johnston wrote:
I am fully against dancers in a magic show...but that is just me. I pay to see magic not some half-clad lady dancing on stage.

I am a fan of the capable assistant however.

lol... leave it to me to drag back some old post but I just saw it!

Rob, the reason I hire dancers is not to have them dance...half clad or not. It is that they are accomplished at moving on stage and they have the right lines to make you and the props look good. In spite of the fact I was a professional dancer for years, even I don't "dance" on stage as I feel it takes away from the magic. On the other hand it gave me a comfort moving on stage that I would never have had otherwise. It is the same for the people I hire.

On 2004-05-21 23:12, Dayanara wrote:
A dancer who is knowlegable in magic is the best you can get.

I totally agree with Bob...Except for the ballet dancer part. Modern dancers are just as good, if not more loose and fluid than ballet dancers. Modern is the expression of natural movement and...well...I'll just make another post out of it.

I'm guessing you would be great on stage! This is just a personal preference but as someone who has choreographed both modern and ballet, I must admit that I prefer girls with a ballet background as their turn out is a more flattering line for most routines. Even for jazz or modern numbers I will typically be more likely to cast girls that have some ballet as their carriage and support is better in general.

Even better is someone with a ballet background that has some showgirl experience. One of my girls was a dancer who had also been a showgirl in Vegas and she had the best lines on stage. I never had to teach her to bevel or how to cross on or off. It was just innate at that point.

Not every show has the same demands however. Sometimes a model is fine for just bringing things on and off stage. Let your act be your guide!
Message: Posted by: mightydog (Dec 20, 2011 09:45PM)
Quote :I am fully against dancers in a magic show...but that is just me. I pay to see magic not some half-clad lady dancing on stage: unquote

a half clad assistant can be a great misdirection asset drawing attention where you want it and away from where you don't. :)
Message: Posted by: griffindance (Oct 12, 2012 07:54AM)
Im a firm believer in the maxim 'a magician is an actor playing the part of a magician.' Therefore your assistants are also actors playing the part of magical assistants.
Depending on the dramaturgy of your show a dancer/assistant can be eye candy, colour and movement and/or a roadie to schlep the props and scenery. Its your show (presumably) so hire the people who fit the character.

As for the topic of modern vs classical dancers. Seriously guys!? Any dancer worth their shoes will have experience with both styles and then some. The quality that the dancers/assistants will bring to your performance comes down to the director and choreographer. I cant stress enough the importance of using an experienced and 'clued in' choreographer if you are going to use dance and dancers in your act. Once you have the 'magic' organised and slick it can all fall to pieces if the staging is amateurish and cliched.
Message: Posted by: msmagic1 (Feb 2, 2013 12:18PM)
Well said
Message: Posted by: DavidThomas (Jun 4, 2013 11:02AM)
Most major cities have dance programs in the Universities. There is always a message board that lists auditions. I highly recommend that you bring in a "dance choreographer" to run the auditions for you. This will give you credibility and make the auditionees feel comfortable. What ever you do be professional, during, before and after the audition. Nothing will ruin a reputation in the dance community that they felt they were put in a creepy or non professional environment.

At first the professors and dance instructors will be a bit wary of new people auditioning their students. But once feed back comes back to them they will be more then willing to recommend the jobs you have to other of their students. I have found once this trust is given to you, a phone call asking for recommendations is the best way to get the best and most reliable dancers.

Until trust is gained with your assistant, always travel with a group to make sure no misunderstanding happen.

Good Luck
Message: Posted by: griffindance (Jan 19, 2014 08:04AM)
If there is anyone still frustrated over sourcing dancers just PM me.
Im more familiar with the european dance market but the dance world isn't that huge and I can probably help with the US and South American markets.
For the MCafés readers' information, Im a balletmaster with over thirty five years experience in theatre. There's not much I havent encountered and even though I say so myself you wont find better. Better suited to your individual vision/production maybe, but not better.

So before you even start searching for dancers you need choreography, before you have choreography you need a choreographer.
As I said before in this thread, decide what you want for your show (excellent dancers who provide colour and movement but also appear in your magical effects, roadies who schlep your equipment, or co-conspirators with a good understanding of illusion techniques, or combinations there of) and cast accordingly.
Message: Posted by: griffindance (Jan 19, 2014 08:12AM)
Maybe this deserves to be an extra thread considering the US market but I feel the need to comment on "Audition Fees."

If you hold an audition for dancers and charge them to attend I will be very, very angry with you.

I do not care how much the audition costs you to host, nor how much time you invest in planning the audition, if you feel you should charge potential cast members to ask you for a job you are running your business badly.

Perhaps this diversion on the topic of dancers seems illogical in a magic forum but for the dance world the prevalence of audition fees is a disease that is centred in the US market.

Maybe there'll be a new thread started under "Helping Hands" but in the mean time Im available to PM regarding the topic.