How to Do a Magic Trick

Street magician David Blaine amazed television audiences when he appeared to hover four inches off the ground during his 1996 televised special, David Blaine: Street Magic. There were public outcries of witchcraft. Others were convinced Blaine studied Eastern philosophies of meditation until he developed telekinetic powers. "It's not actual witchcraft, of course," says professional magician Chris Rose of Sky Piece Productions in Phoenix. "But when you see a man rise in the air, it's going to freak you out."

Common levitation techniques used by professional magicians include Zero Gravity, King Levitation, and Sooperman. Tricks like these can be purchased online or at a local magic store, but don't expect it to be cheap. A good kit, with gimmicks and instructional DVD included, will set you back. Zero Gravity and King Levitation cannot be used in impromptu street magic routines because they require props — like fake shoes or platforms — that must be pre-set. That's why David Blaine used a basic technique called the Balducci Levitation to levitate for his television special. It's a great trick for beginners, since no special preparation or equipment is required.

Step 1: Position yourself at a 45-degree angle approximately eight feet away from your viewing audience. (You can also practice at home using a floor-length mirror.) If you are positioned correctly, your back should be to the audience, but you should see them out of the corner of your right eye. This is extremely important, as the audience must only see your heels and part of the side of your right foot for the illusion to work.

Step 2: Raise your left heel three to four inches while simultaneously raising your entire right foot three to four inches off the ground. Your left foot should be on tiptoe and your entire right foot should be parallel to the ground. Your left toe, on which you are completely balanced, cannot be seen by the audience members because of their viewing angle. So it will appear as if you are floating three to four inches off the ground! Hold this position for five seconds.

Step 3: Lower the raised portions of both feet slowly. Try bending at the knees a little as you "touch down" on the ground to make the illusion appear real. It's all about the showmanship, explains Rose. "The Balducci Levitation is very simple in its presentation. Blaine made it into something that was stressful and took lots of energy. That's why people were so impressed."

Camera tricks didn't hurt, either. By splicing in clips of Blaine being pulled completely off the ground using a "flying" rig, the home viewing audience could be shown the underside of both feet in the air. Cheating aside, the foundation of Blaine's street routine is still the Balducci. Yeah, we know. It's so ridiculously easy that a trained monkey, or even Paris Hilton, could do it. But if Blaine's version was enough to convince throngs of television viewers he's the antichrist, it'll impress your lowbrow beer buddies for sure.

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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden