Cardistry – the art of card flourishes

31-March-2012 16:53
in General
by Legerdemain Magic

I am passionate about sleight-of-hand card magic; watching it and performing it. The dexterity, subtleties, timing and fluidity make it poetry in motion. The name of my website, Legerdemain, means ‘sleight of hand’ (or literally, ‘light of hand’).

But as a general rule, the better sleight of hand is performed, the less you see. Perfectly-executed techniques should be invisible, so that the audience is left with the impression that they have witnessed real magic.

This of course should be the goal of any magician, but I sometimes feel that it’s a shame that so much hard work is put into cultivating skills that are often as beautiful and amazing as the magic tricks being performed, and yet are never seen.

Magicians Penn & Teller made the point that sometimes magical methods are actually more entertaining than the tricks they effect, an idea they put to good use in routines such as their cigarette trick.

Cardistry – the beauty of prestidigitation

An exciting development has been the rise of cardistry – the performance of elaborate card cuts, shuffles, spreads, fans and other displays of prestidigitation, as an art in their own right.

Cardistry is in contrast to magic, in that the techniques are far from being hidden, rather they are the entertainment. However, cardistry and magic can complement each other. The grace of flourishes sometimes makes a magical performance more pleasing to watch, and adds to the sense that the magician is capable of doing amazing things. There are also people who perform cardistry in its own right, without combining it with magic tricks.

Cardistry is not new, you can see photos of Houdini performing cuts and card spreads. Before specialising in escapology, Houdini was famed for his sleight of hand and was known as the King of Cards.

But in recent years, cardistry has been taken to new levels, with a growing number of practitioners developing increasingly skilful moves. The rise of the cardistry community has created a healthy competition that drives members to develop more impressive flourishes. The highly visual nature of cardistry, and its fast and flashy moves, have led to it being dubbed the magician’s equivalent of extreme sports.

Cardistry practitioners often combine their card-handling abilities with a talent for film making to create some amazing videos. Beautiful card flourishes are mixed with striking backgrounds and great soundtracks, elevating cardistry even higher as an art form.

Many people can be credited for the development of cardistry, but perhaps most significant are twins Dan and David Buck. They have played a fundamental role in creating cardistry techniques, and in teaching and inspiring others to take it up . I saw them perform live at a lecture in London and was very impressed by their skills in cardistry and magic, and also by the breadth of the knowledge.

Cardistry videos

There are a lot of cardistry videos out there. Visit sites like YouTube and Vimeo and you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Here are a few of my favourites, including my own attempt at making one. I hope you enjoy.