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My teacher at the Magic Castle was talking to us about card flourishes, something many of us beginners struggle to start learning, and he had an interesting viewpoint I hadn't thought of before. Namely, don't waste your time learning them.

His logic was basically this: in the amount of time it takes to learn and master a flourish, you can learn dozens of tricks.

In addition, when you can handle cards in that fancy of a manner, it lessens the impact of the tricks. The audience is not impressed that someone THAT GOOD with handling cards can do some sleight of hand.

Compare that to someone who appears to have just normal (or slightly above normal) skills. When they do a trick without covering it up with fancy moves, it's genuinely surprising!

I just wanted to see what people here thought of that. I've found that one basic flourish that I first learned was the Charlies cut (spelling?) which, surprise surprise, I then learned a trick that relied on the ability to do this move. Of course, it's not much of a flourish, but this one trick made the effort required to get the one handed cut down well worth the practice.

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Peter Marucci
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Like everything else, it depends.
To watch someone like Martin Nash handle a deck of cards is to watch a thing of beauty.
"The Charming Cheat" is SUPPOSED to be able to handle a deck with skill and artistry.
On the other hand, the school of thought that says "don't use flourishes because it makes the audience aware that you can do amazing things with a deck" has its validity, too.
I suppose the answer might be: Learn enough flourishes to do what you want to do (you give the Charlier Cut as an example); then, afterwards, if you decided you want to specialize in flourishes, go ahead. (The late Joe Cossari made an entire career out of doing card fans. But, of course, he was the best in the world at it!)
Burt Yaroch
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That is fuzzy logic indeed.

First your teacher seems to be implying you need to know hundreds of tricks. You don't. You only need a dozen or so good ones. So while you are learning to master those you will have plenty of time to devote to learning flourishes.

"The audience is not impressed that someone THAT GOOD with handling cards can do some sleight of hand."

I have never agreed with this logic. I think this is an excuse perpetuated by those who cannot flourish or perhaps the fading light of an obsolete form of magic. If I am in an audience or approached by a magi in a restaurant I automatically, as do most laypersons, assume that they are skilled. I expect to see magic and I expect them to be good at it. When they quickly demonstrate more skill I suddenly become less impressed? That's absurd.

If this logic were true then every magician could only do a single trick each performance because as soon as he demonstrated increased skill you would have an unimpressible audience.

"Well of course all the colors seperated. He made your card come to the top every time didn't he?"

Further I have seen very few performing magicians who do not perform flourishes. A card fan is a flourish. Dribbling the cards is a flourish. A ribbon spread is a flourish. So this argument only applies to truly difficult flourishes?

Most magicians would also tell you it is prudent to begin a performance with a quick trick to establish yourself as someone who can handle cards. A quick flourish will accomplish the same thing.

The great thing about this argument is you don't have to take your teachers advice or even mine. Learn a few great flourishes and experiment with them in your magic. You'll see. Smile
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Lehi, UT, USA
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As a newcommer to magic, I can still speak somewhat as a layperson. I have always loved to see expert card handling. I enjoy card fans and springing cards, one handed cuts and the like. It adds greatly to the entertainment.
Of course, if your goal is to try to convince the spectator that no skill is involved and that "MAGIC" is the only explanation, You will have to invest many, many more hours in acting and image building than you would have invested in learning flourishes.
I, for one like to practice flourishes when I am watching the news, as I don't realy want to concentrate on an effect at that time.

My opinion, for what it's worth
Magic is fun!!!
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One of the problems that I often see is that the pure sleight of hand guys get upset when they get blown away with a novice and his Svengali deck. The audience has no idea that the guy's double whammy tripple pass undercut took him seven years to master because they can't see it, and they shouldn't. To them it just looks like the guy put a card in the middle of the deck and it came to the top.
Flourishes are a way to show the audience that you have given up any form of social life and that you have devoted yourself to the art of magic.
You don't need to go all out. A couple of fancy cuts and spreads is al you need to get your point across and there has yet to be a mechanical deck manufactured that can replicate these.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
Brad Burt
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Think about this for a moment. Your teacher doesn't want to lessen the impact of a CARD TRICK!? No, really, think about that. 'You' (or us) the great magician is about to amaze the world with his POWERFUL and AWE inspiring magic! What do you pull out? A deck of cards. Oooo! Scaring the stuffing out of me.

Look, don't get me wrong, I LOVE card magic. I have ten videos on card technique out and have been doing sleight-of-hand for over 35 years, but come on. Put your self in the place of a layperson: Does anyone of you really believe that ANYONE of them believe that doing even the best card trick is REAL magic? Trust me here, unless the layperson is psychotic they don't. As much as I LOVE cards, they are JUST cards. 52 pieces of paper sandwiched with plastic covers.

What I am trying to get across is that lay folk EXPECT someone who handles cards to HANDLE them with Flair and Grace. They LOVE to see the fans, spreads and one handed cuts. I know, I have been there performance wise and they just DO.

A good, but brief flourish routine sets up the audience to ACCEPT ... YOU as the guy in charge of the show. Look, show them your stuff and knock them on their collective behinds, but DON'T think that THEY think you are doing 'real' magic, they don't. That's not a bad thing, it just IS.

Note: This is an answer culled from my online Mini Magic Course at:

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Steven Steele
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Hesperia, California USA
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Flourishes are used to accentuate the magic. If you're doing them just to demonstrate your skill, it is an empty demonstration. I will often throw in a flourish that complements the effect and also provides misdirection for something else going on.

As in everthing...moderation.
Bascomb Grecian
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I have got to jump in on this one:

Learn as much as you can. Learn flourishes, learn sleights, learn tricks. Do not get hung up on what to do and what not to do.
I do some awesome card routines. I throw in a flourish or two here and there. The audiences always say, "Do that again" when I snap my card fans closed.

Sometimes audiences can get bored with ten minutes of card fanning, so use flourishes in moderation, or give them the attention you think they deserve.

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Steven and Bascomb have hit it right on as far as I'm concerned. I don't do flourishes much nowadays because I work primarely with mentalism and such, but the flourishes can help compliment a certain routine. I like flourishes best when they are used NOT as a focus point but rather a way to get from here to there in a nice fashion without trying too hard to call attention to themselves. Smile
Rajat Mittal
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Consider this: a chosen card is put in the middle of the pack. Then the performer does a series of unbelievable flourishes. At the end of all that, the chosen card is at the top. Not very magical is it? One could say entertaining, but then the magic and the flourishes done seperately would be even more entertaining.

On the other hand, think of a simple "self working" gambling demonstration. Here, some flourishes would actually add to the effect.

Consider also the bumbling magician who apparently does magic by mistake. She shouldn't really be able to do flourishes. However, is difficult to think of Cardini without thinking of card fans.

So really it depends - on what impression you wish to give to the spectators about yourself, and the nature of the trick you're performing. Above all, it has to fit in character, because the best flourish routine you can find (or for that matter, any effect) does not come close to the potential of an entertaining character. That would be my benchmark.
Emily Belleranti
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I include flourishes in my work; nothing fancy, just a few fans, spreads, etc., things to add to the impact of the magic and show I'm not a person who bought a few tricks at the local magic shop and is performing them two hours later.

Actually, flourishes have a significant place in some of the presentations of a few of my effects, and I would have to alter a lot of my magic if I were to remove them. Flourishes serve a spot in my character (though my character is still evolving). I just make sure I don't let the flourishes override the magic.

If I'm doing a formal performance, I might be standing behind a table doing a few flourishes while I am waiting for my audience to get seated. This serves to introduce the magic, and gets the audience looking forward to my act. It also helps to get people familiar with my character.

I say you should use flourishes if you think it will benefit your magic. Just don't go overboard with them; be sure the majority of what you do is magic.
"If you achieve success, you will get applause, and if you get applause, you will hear it. My advice to you concerning applause is this: Enjoy it, but never quite believe it."

-Robert Montgomery
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The magician's that impressed me the most (Tamariz / Hamman / Ascanio) had GREAT skill, but only seldom used flourishes...
"I can't really think of a good quote to put here"
Brad Burt
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Good stuff above.. moderation AND, KNOWING, WHEN to put in a flourish. The problem is not with flourishes, but with the inappropriate use of them.

To whit: You are standing at you $600 custom built table in a classy home ready to work a cocktail crowd. Things are just getting going. Knowing that you will look silly doing tricks for yourself you do what?
In my case I would do spreads, one hand cuts, springs, etc. to gain the initial attention needed to get things going by building a small crowd so I could start. Once going, such shows for me were pretty much self perpetuating. One group leaves and zap another is there.

From that point on the use of flourishes was always the means to the end of making anything that I did more entertaining. The problem is when flourishes become an end in themselves. Flourishes are like condiments. Like salt, pepper, mustard you will use them at the right time and in the amount necessary to gain whatever AFFECT or ADVANTAGE upon the audience that you need to insure success of the presentation.

Brad Burt
Brad Burt
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