Friday, December 9, 2011

International student schooled in magical trade

Meg Beerling
Feature Editor

With an English degree from Geely University in China and two on the way from Saint Mary’s University in public relations and electronic publishing, senior Yuepeng (Lee) Li has a different trick up his sleeve.

During his time in China, Li was a professional magician. “I started when I was 19,” he said. A friend of his was a professional and asked him if he wanted to see a few tricks, he said. He took interest and started to learn the trade for himself.

Li said there are two types of magic: close-up, and stage. Close-up magic includes slight-of-hand tricks. These are tricks with cards, coins and other everyday objects in an intimate setting. Stage magic, on the other hand, uses big props and involves tricks like sawing a person in half. Li specializes in close-up magic.

At the time he started to learn the trade, Li was studying English in China. He said that college is a lot different there in that “there is a lot of free time.” This gave him more time to practice and learn the secrets of magic, he said.

“Practice doesn’t make your magic perfect, it makes it permanent,” said Li. “What I mean by that is the more you practice a trick, the more confident you will become in it; the more confident you are, the more deceptive you are,” he said.

“One week without magic makes your magic weak,” said Li. “Magic is something you have to practice daily, and you have to do it in front of a mirror. Presentation is just as important as the magic itself.”

Audience management is hard, but he said it’s something magicians need to learn. They must know their audiences and adapt their shows to them.

“Magic is an art to entertain people,” said Li.

People’s facial expressions tell a lot about what kind of audience members they’ll be, Li said.

“People like it when [magicians] mess up,” but that’s something that Li is okay with. “I like the idea,” he said, adding that magicians can entertain their audiences by messing up or pretending to mess up.

Participation is a big part of Li’s performance. He said he wants the audience to be a part of it. He also doesn’t believe in leaving his audience curious. While it is a very controversial issue in the world of magic, Li doesn’t think that all tricks have to be kept secrets — just the big ones. He said that telling people a few tricks is good for magic; it’s what makes people want to do and see more of it.

“By letting people in on some of your magic, you give yourself some of the best promotion, and that’s word of mouth,” said Li.

But just because other people know your tricks doesn’t mean they know your magic, said Li. People can know a trick and still be entertained by it if the magician adds his or her own twist or creativity. With every person who knows the trick, there will be more people to adjust it and make it new, he said.

Li said that he enjoys doing magic in the United States more than in China since he thinks that people are more friendly and willing to stop and watch.

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