Magic got its start in the street. Before magicians became popular with the upper classes during the 1800’s, virtually all magic was performed on the street for any passerby who would stop to notice. Nowadays there has been a return to street magic, with many magicians filming themselves walking around and performing tricks for unsuspecting pedestrians.
Street magic is any magic that can be performed on the street with spectators in close proximity. Elaborate sets and large props can’t really be used in street magic, so coins, cards, and other close up illusions make up the majority of street performances.
One trick that can be performed almost anywhere and absolutely stuns spectators is “The Jumping Toothpick”. This trick is incredibly simple and requires only two toothpicks.
In “The Jumping Toothpick” you lay one toothpick across another on the edge of a table. You can then make the toothpick move, jump, and even flip over, seemingly with telekinetic powers.
Begin by pinching the edge of one toothpick between your thumb and index fingers like you are making an “OK” sign, with the toothpick extending towards your pinky. Then place the fingernail of your middle finger against the side your thumb is touching. You should now be able to put pressure against the toothpick with the nail of your middle finger.
Hold this first toothpick parallel to the edge of the table. Lay the second toothpick so that one end is resting on the table, and the other end is resting perpendicularly on the toothpick you are holding. Now for the secret: Use your index finger to push the toothpick you are holding against the nail of your middle finger. Squeeze hard and create some tension. Now slide your middle finger towards your index. If you are creating enough tension against your nail, it will “pop” as you slide back.
This pop will cause the second toothpick to jump into the air. A really good pop will make the toothpick flip over or even send it flying. The rougher the toothpick is, the better effect you can get. The trick can be performed with wooden matches as well.
You must really apply a lot of tension to get the trick to work properly, and your hand may even shake. So when you perform the trick, talk about how you must focus your “powers”. This gives you a good excuse to be tensing your hand so much.
With your free hand you can employ some misdirection by pointing your palm towards the toothpicks or making finger movements. This will take spectators’ attention away from where the magic is really happening. It may even cause them to look for strings or ask you to perform the trick without your free hand floating.
What makes “The Jumping Toothpick” such a great trick is that it can be performed anywhere with a table and toothpicks or matches. Considering the amount of time people spend in eating establishments you’ll have a lot of opportunity to impress your friends with this one. It also requires almost no skill.
Another trick that has been used heavily by street magicians in the past decade is Balducci levitation. This trick was popularized by Ed Balducci and allows the performer to seemingly levitate a few inches off the ground.
Achieving the effect is simple. However, the magician’s position in relation to the audience is incredibly important. This trick will not work except with a small, tightly grouped crowd.
You stand with your back to the crowd and feet together at a 45 degree angle. If you think of where you are standing as a clock, then your feet would be pointing at about 2 o’clock, with the audience at 6 o’clock. Your front left toe should be completely out of view.
To levitate, simple lift yourself off the ground and support the weight with your front left toe. Hold it for a few seconds, and then return to the ground. You must try to make your feet appear parallel to the ground and each other.
As you return to the ground, bend your knees a little bit to exaggerate the effect. What really makes this trick believable is the performance. Act as if the levitation has taken a physical toll on your body. Do some Tai Chi as part of your “preparation”, whatever you can come up with. If performed correctly the audience will be stunned.
These street magic illusions can be performed anywhere, anytime, for anyone. They are both simple effects that produce absurd results. The toothpick trick can be learned in a matter of minutes, with the Balducci levitation it takes a while to figure out the nuances. Both are relatively simple though, and with some dedication can be learned with no problem.