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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Ever so sleightly » » Do We Lose the Ability to Perform Sleights as We Grow Older? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Bill Palmer
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Let me make some comments based upon another field that requires extreme dexterity (more than most magical sleights, to tell the truth) -- music.

Wanda Landowska, arguably one of the top 10 harpsichordists who ever lived, maintained her dexterity well into her seventies. Nadia Boulanger, whose hands looked arthritic, and trembled a bit under normal circumstances, played the piano like nobody's business until her late eighties.

Let's get down to brass tacks. Sleights shouldn't look like sleights. The best ones look like natural movements. They should be invisible, as should all good magic. Vernon knew this. He taught this as part of his basic philosophy of magic.

From time to time, someone who isn't familiar with this idea (which has also been discovered by everyone from Robert-Houdin through -- well, you name it!) stumbles across it, and proclaims it as his own.

Naturally, there is a difference between a sleight and a flourish. The sleights are the underlying tools of magic. Flourishes are like the cadenzas in piano or violin solos.

One is natural, the other is showing off, but in a beautiful way.
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Vandy Grift
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Quote:
On 2006-06-09 10:49, Bill Palmer wrote:
Wanda Landowska, arguably one of the top 10 harpsichordists who ever lived, maintained her dexterity well into her seventies. Nadia Boulanger, whose hands looked arthritic, and trembled a bit under normal circumstances, played the piano like nobody's business until her late eighties.



Throw in Les Paul who won two Grammys at the age of 90 and performs twice weekly even though he has pretty severe arthritis. But that may have to do with that "use it or lose it" thing. He has never stopped using it.
"Get a life dude." -some guy in a magic forum
Bill Palmer
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Les has another interesting handicap. His left elbow has been permanently fused into its present position. He was injured either during the War or shortly afterwards, and was threatened with an amputation.
"The Swatter"

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rickmagic1
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If I remember correctly, Bill...didn't Vernon have something similar happen with his accident in the 30s? And I do believe that was both arms.

Rick
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Bill Palmer
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Yes, but his elbows weren't fused. He did have an awkward bend in his arms, though, which was probably the result of a bad job of setting.
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Laird
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My contention has always been that Magic has always been an excellent form of occupational therapy.
For example: The French Drop- You can't fully understand taking something from your hand until you try to not take it. I'm sure others can find better examples. Then you're placed in a positon of having to learn something new all the time.
I'd like to think that Magic has added 5-10 years to my life. Now that's MAGIC!!!
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I would say the number disablity of legerdemain is arthritis. Milt Kort was one of the greatest. When he got old, he lost the movements of his skill. The last time I called him, he told me he wasn't suppose to be picking up the phone. Some will lose their skill because of some disease and some of us will not.
Bill Palmer
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Some doctors think that certain forms of arthritis are staved off by exercise. So, unless you are in pain, you probably should continue to do your magic. Just be careful not to induce repeated motion injuries.

Short spans of practice on a daily basis will help keep you in good shape.
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Steven Steele
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Losing the ability to perform sleights with age is correlated to the belief that as we age we lose our ability to perform in a variety of ways, thus acting 'old'. Aging is a physical phenomenon, but it's greatly influenced by our minds. Several years ago there was a study that was performed on a group of Indians in Mexico called the Tarahumara. The belief in that society was that as you get older, you get to be a faster runner. They believed that the 20 year olds were good, the 40 year olds were better, and the 60 year olds were the best of all. This is contrary to our conventional belief.

A team of researchers went to Mexico to study the Tarahumara Indians. They measured a variety of physical variables and were shocked to find that the 20 year olds were healthy, but the 40 years olds were in better physical shape, and the 60 year olds were in the best physical condition of everybody.

Mark Hyman, MD has suggested that this study indicates that we have the capacity to stay healthy that long and be highly functional, but number two that our beliefs and our attitudes play a huge role.

Yet another study performed by Ellen Langer of Harvard took a group of 75 year old men and sequestered them in a camp for two weeks. They were instructed to pretend that they were 20 years younger. They put of pictures of Eisenhower and newspapers from 20 years ago to help with the illusion.

After two weeks a series of measurements were taken, like finger length, visual acuity, and hearing tests, as well as before and after pictures of each participant. Every physiologic measurement improved over the two weeks. People continually stated that the men looked younger. The study determined that a lot of what happens to us is the result of our beliefs and attitudes.

I read about these studies quite a while ago and my whole attitude is that I get better with each day. And every day is structured to that end. You should try it and you'll be able to perform sleights all through your life, like many of the masters talked about above.
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Les Paul knocked out his elbow in a car accident (ice). The doc woke him during the operation to check the hand position before locking things down. (A great player and thinker.)

And Django Reinhardt played with the use of only two fingers on his fretting hand. (The results of a fire in his gypsy caravan wagon.) He was a jazz guitar giant.

Attitude, desire, and artistry can overcome a lot.
Bill Palmer
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To expand on Django Reinhardt's accident -- there was a celluloid flower in a vase on the table in his vardo. This caught fire, as celluloid is wont to do. Fearing that the whole wagon would go up in flames, he grabbed the flower with his left hand, and ran outside to throw it in the water.

He overcame the handicap, because he had to.

If you are a bluegrass fan, listen to Barry Abernathy sometime. He has only two fingers on his left hand. He frets the banjo with his thumb. Plays the heck out of it, too.
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Gerald
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Let me chime in with Bill’s excellent examples from the music world. I heard Artur Rubinstein, the great pianist of the past, play a number of times when he was in his 80’s. Technically, he sounded like a twenty year old, but he played with the maturity, experience and passion of his years. The same can be said for Vladimir Horowitz and other lesser known pianists. John Calvert in the magic world comes to mind. Maybe the old adage “You are as young as you feel.” has some truth in it. I would like to think so.

Gerald
navysteel0101
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Like with all things in life that require phyiscal ability as we grow older we are not as fast or smooth , our hands become more bridle our muscles don't respond as fast , like a sports player be it baseball football or anything else you cant do it forever one day its time to hang it up and remember the good things you did and not dwell on the fact that you cant anymore . I say if its true that certain things become harder because we arient as young anymore so be it that is the natural order of things and make way for the next generation. do it till you cant anymore then walk away and do tricks for the grand kids and I think everyone is missing a major point to all this you cant do anything you like to do forever one day age will be a factor, maybe you cant ride a motorcycle as well as you use too maybe its skiing or baseball or whatever enjoy while it lasts . hey and somepeople can perform till they die the professor for you comes to mind he was an old man but could still school almost anyone
Bill Palmer
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Would you like to buy a couple of punctuation marks and a shift key?

Your post is almost unintelligible. "Our hands become more bridle" So, do our feet become more "saddle?"

Regarding the idea that age will automatically put everyone down, it's not necessarily true. At the age of 79, Wanda Landowska could still play the harpsichord at top speed, with accuracy and interpretive skill. There is evidence that what kept her skill up and prevented her from suffering from arthritis was the fact that she practiced and played several hours a day. Regular exercise keeps the fingers supple and strong.

Vernon at 80 was better than most of us at 30.

And Marlo could do incredibly difficult sleights until he drew his final breath.

They only way you lose it is if you don't use it. There are no sleights that fall into the category of motorcycle racing.
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Bill Palmer
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BTW, I don't mean to sound like a schoolteacher, which I am not. But if we can't understand what you are posting, then we can neither get anything from it nor can we respond to it easily.
"The Swatter"

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Mano
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Hi Steven Steele,

That is a great post; I am a distance runner and I also read the article about the Tarahumara,very interesting.

Regars,
Mano.
echomagic
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I remember when 30 was old. I must be ancient by my own standards. My point is that you need to have been there to know what aging does to a person. Now I know.

As you get older, body parts do not work as well as they used to. That does not mean that we can't do the same things that we used to. It does mean that it takes much more effort to do those same things.
Bill Palmer
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There is a phenomenon called muscle memory that enables us to keep going with practice. If we stop doing our work for a year or two, we may never get our skill back.

More than age, I think physical damage, such as surgical problems and the like limit our abilities. I had to quit doing the Vanishing Bird Cage, because of a torn rotator cuff. Each time I did the cage, my shoulder got worse. But my pass is cleaner now than it was when I was 18.
"The Swatter"

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Dougini
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Hi all! Smile

I'm 51 and am STILL learning new sleights (and re-learning old ones, LOL).

Airship & I have a similar situation. I don't have diabetes, but suffer from nerve problems in my hands/fingers. A chiropracter worked on me for over a year (mentioning something about pinched nerves in my neck), with little to no relief.

Well that was two years ago, and since I quit riding my mountain bike, the feeling in my fingers has almost returned to full functionality. Now mind you, once in a while I get numbness creeping in...but it goes away...

Now, back to that Erdnase...(where'd I put that Red Gaff Deck?)...LOL

Doug
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Yea, I'm almost 60. If muscles atrophy, fingers become thicker, hands get drier and short-term memory begins to wane, lamenting the situation is not my answer. I find I must practice more often and longer, but so what? Life may take away the "ease of youth" but will give you more time once you retire to make it easier again. It is much like life shutting a door and opening a window. Change is inevitable, but dealing with the change successfully can be and is its own reward.

To sum it up without getting too philosophical or boasting, you will not lose the ability to do sleights through the simple process of aging (debilitating diseases aside). You will, however, need to counteract the apparent effects of aging through increased practice and added creativity. Aging happens daily. Anti-aging must travel at the same pace.

Nick
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