Here’s a common debate I see magicians talking about quite often. Do flourishes add or take away from your magic? Well, the answer is both in my opinion.
Flourishes at the right time will definitely add to your show. They show that you have tremendous control over a deck of cards. They instantly establish you as someone who spends countless hours practicing with playing cards. All of this is very good. So, at the beginning of my shows I always find room to add a few flourishes as I’m introducing myself.
How do flourishes take away from magic? When they are excessive. I recently saw a magician doing an Ace assembly (at least I think it was.) Each Ace was produced with a thirty-second spinning, throwing, and balancing act. The twelve indifferent cards needed for the effect came flying out of the deck as well. The Aces appeared or vanished so fast (whilst still spinning) I had no idea if they were coming from or going to the leader packet. The effect was completely lost. It just looked like a juggling act. In this case, the flourishes ruined the magic. The spectator would be impressed by the cards flying around, but would have no idea that a transposition of the Aces took place.
Do you remember that scene from the first Matrix movie? It was the scene where we saw bullet-time for the first time. Keanu Reeves bent over backwards to avoid getting hit by a barrage of bullets. At the same time, the camera spun 360 degrees around him. It was visually stunning to see that for the first time. Time stood still as the camera pulled you in (in slow motion) into that particular moment. I remember seeing that as a kid and my mind blew up. That’s a flourish in a movie. Bullet time enhanced the scene. In real time, we wouldn’t have seen the bullets. In the entire two-hour movie bullet time happened only a few times. Now imagine the entire movie shot that way. Every scene. Even the boring shots of people talking, establishing shots, credits. It would be awful. You wouldn’t be able to understand a single thing and bullet-time would no longer be a special moment.
When I perform an Ace assembly, I’d like the audience to clearly follow the effect. In order for each transposition to be effective, the spectator must believe they know what cards are where. How do I achieve this? Clarity. The cards are cleanly and openly placed on the table. If I’m busy cutting the deck into 52 different packets that are endlessly summersaulting, the spectator might be distracted by that and miss where the Ace was placed.
I’m not saying there’s no place for flourishes or that I don’t like them. I’m saying make sure they don’t diminish your work as a magician. Find the right place in your trick (or your act) to establish you have this amazing ability. For an example of this, take a look at Standing Out from my book Game Changer. The flourishes don’t get in the way of the effect.