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Close-up Magic in Beijing

  By Dan LeFay

 An invitation by the people who will host FISM 2009 in Beijing is not something I would just let go by. Induced by Mr. Lin of the China Acrobats Association and messaged to me by my good friend, FISM president Eric Eswin I flew to China on October 28th. My mind open for the cultural adventures that would unfold…

 From the first meeting with my translator Ma Jie I already noticed that the Chinese people take their commitments in such matters very seriously. (Even earlier, now that I think of. During some extensive e-mail correspondence they gave me the impression there would be little left unprepared!)

I was greeted with a warm smile, beautiful flowers and a travel case (for in case I would like to buy some goods) with souvenirs.

Beijing, unexpected, looked familiar in a sense. Reminded me a lot of big western cities, only bigger, wider and absolutely very modern (I recall being in Hong Kong which felt a little like New York built in the mountains). Beijing is flat, its traffic chaotic and the hotel I’m brought to, a  “five star dream”.

 The first evening sets the pace. Hardly settled down in my luxurious room I’m brought to a restaurant where I meet the rest of the magicians. My friend Lennard Green has been wowing the audience with his incredible skills and for a moment I ask myself if I’m not too little prepared. Fortunately my little show goes over well. A couple of officials are brought in for dinner and they seem to enjoy the “little tricks”.

I also discover that dinner is used by my hosts for a lot of formal speeches (along with a lot of alcohol).

 Next day comes in Armando. I am proud to be involved with his very first appearances in the magic community in 2003. Armando is a superstar now and it is quite interesting to see how he handles things.

The next day at the huge theatre where the first performance is being held, there is a lot more to discuss. We convince them that the use of one big screen and a fixed camera shot of 45 degrees gives far better result for live performance than the two screens and large camera rig that has been set up in front of the stage.

Much to our relief, Mr. Lin accepts our suggestions and the equipment was replaced.

I have, once again to express my admiration on the jobs of the translators. It must have been quite difficult to translate messages from one to another that, at times might have been frustrating.

Still, the end result, a very good received first performing for an audience of 2500 (!) proves that all the discussions were worth their effort. We can all look back on a great show without any major mistakes.

 The second performance, while labeled ”un-official” appears to be the one with the highest risk at stake. A complete delegation of ministers, secretaries and other important leaders has to be convinced that close-up magic is an art with its own rights.

The performance goes over well. I find it heartwarming to see these people with the highest functions react like happy little children on the magic. I think my dollar bills have been counted at least ten times by different audience members!

I think all parties involved can look back on an exciting evening with a lot of laughter, magic and alcohol. Gan Bei!

 Between official businesses we have been treated royally with diners, lunch and all kinds of exciting trips to places I only saw in films or on television. The beauty of the Chinese culture, expressed in, for instance, the Summer Palace, The Forbidden city and of course The Great Wall, are memories I will treasure for the rest of my life. The warmth and friendship of our translators of course has added a lot of value.

 I think it is uplifting that the Chinese hosts are concerned in providing the best possible technical support for our performances.

 Concluding I can say that I have felt very, very welcome in Beijing. Although there are differences in approach I think that with mutual respect and willingness to listen to one another there are really great opportunities for FISM 2009.

Mr. Lin is learning some things actually should be changed for the better part of it. Mutual trust and respect is something to be realized constantly.

Once the train is moving, when more experience is shared between artists, organizers, translators, close-up and stage performers, western and eastern people, it will get to full speed and head towards a truly great and memorable FISM 2009.

I, for my part, love to be a part of that and will follow it closely.