|According to Mike Close in his "Marketplace" column in the June 1997 issue of Magic Magazine, " . . . all the current self-levitations have their basis in two articles published by Karl Fulves. The first titled "Impromptu Levitation" can be found in the July||1974 issue of the Pallbearer's Review (Volume 9, Number 9, page 755.) Ed Balducci is credited in the article, but he explains that he was shown the method by Erwin Levine, who was one of the Harmonicats. Mr. Levine had no idea who the originator was."|
As mentioned above, David Blaine is not the originator of this illusion. He has made the illusion popular, once again, with his recent television special, "David Blaine: Street Magic." The unfortunate reality is, however, that we never really get to see Blaine performing the Balducci Levitation. We watch several times as Blaine performs it for others, but we never get to see it for ourselves.
For the television special, Blaine performed the Balducci levitation in front of several different groups of people, and the camera was there to catch their reaction. The method he used for this is the Balducci method, described below. While videotaping these various performances, the producers keyed in on the audience members with the most visual reaction. After the Balducci levitation, the producers of the show had these same people stand by for another taping of the illusion - this time the camera would shoot from behind the audience members to get a
clear view of Blaine in action. The audience members were told that this second performance was to show them how magicians could use wires to levitate. And this is exactly what happened. A small harness and rig (just out of camera view) was set up and Blaine performed a standard wire-suspension.
What Blaine did was a camera trick - known as a post-production edit. The audience at home watched the second (wire suspension) levitation performance, with the audience reaction of the real levitation edited in. It was said, in the television special, that no strings or wires were used to perform Blaine's levitation. This is true, no wires or strings are required. Unfortunately, we never got to see Blaine's real levitation - we saw a wire-suspension.
Other than a few camera edits, Blaine did a wonderful job with his first television special. This is one magic special worth owning on videotape.
The Balducci Levitation is an illusion that can be performed almost anywhere, anythime. It uses no wires, strings, rigs, camera tricks, etc.
The illustrations at the right show you the audience point-of-view.
This is a highly restrictive, angle-sensitive trick. You have to practice your angles over and over to get used to them. One bad angle or position and the illusion is blown!
In the television special "David Blaine: Street Magic" they show everyone having 'cows' over Blaine's levitation. What they don't show you are the countless times Blaine screwed the trick up. It is easy to get a bad angle - even more so when you're performing for several people.
Figure 1 shows the start of the illusion. Stand about 8 to 10 feet away from the audience at a 45° 'backward' angle (as shown in figure 1). You pause . . . and then slowly start to float (figure 2). You rise 3 to 5 inches off of the ground before you suddenly "crash" back down to the ground.
When performed correctly, this is about as close to "real" magic as you'd ever want to get.
All you do is pretend to "float off of the ground while you tippee-toe on just one foot (the foot furthest from their view) as shown below. Believe it, or not, this looks GREAT! The small audience can not see your supporting foot because it is hidden by three things: your pants, the angle of the trick and your closest shoe (which hides their view of the foot being used to "levitate" you.) You might only rise 3 or 5 inches off of the ground, but it's all in the presentation! You will want to slowly rise off of the ground . . . wait just one second and then drop fast. Stay up too long and they will probably figure it out.
This is what the Balducci Levitation looks like during performance. The position on the left is the start of the illusion. The position on the right shows the climax of the levitation.
Animation: See the Balducci Levitation in Action
(28.8 modem will take approximately 1 minute)
Another thing. Don't just walk up to someone and say, "wanna see me float?" You must first show them, say, a bunch of card tricks. This will let you know if you can perform the Balducci Levitation for them, or not. If they tend to grab at the cards or seem to go out of their way to make magic life difficult for you, then you do not want to show them this trick. They will blow it for you, and everyone else. The Balducci Levitation requires a respectable, responsive audience - people that like, and want, to be entertained. Part of being a good magician is knowing who not to show a trick to - no matter how much you want to show it to them. You show them a few card tricks first (or something of the like). This establishes a "magical" mood, lets you see if they are 'in the mood' and sets them up for the big one. After seeing a bunch of "small" stuff they will never
suspect a levitation. This is what blows them away! After a few card tricks, simply have them stand together and then set up for the illusion. "Can everyone see my feet?" is something good to say at this point. "Everyone watch me while I float!" is probably the crappiest thing you could say. Never tell them exactly what to do (this way, they won't be trying to figure it out before you even get started).
Practice in front of a mirror, or better yet, in front of a video camera on a tripod. Set the camera at eye level and perform for the camera several times. This will help you learn your angles much faster, and better than a mirror. Better yet, let a friend in on the trick and have him/her videotape your performance.
A special thank you goes to Robert McDaniel for his research help.
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