S Juanderful

Let me start off by saying that Juan Tamariz is one of my heroes. He combines an absolutely diabolical mind with the soul of a poet and the manic performance style of someone who has just eluded the guards at the asylum. Be aware, however, that this performance style is a smoke screen; Juan thinks seriously and deeply about his magic, which is why his effects appear to have no rational explanation. Juan doesn't do tricks, he does magic.

A-1 MultiMedia has released three videotapes of Juan Tamariz performing and teaching some of his remarkable magic. The tapes are titled Lessons in Magic, and this is exactly what they are: object lessons in how to create powerful, baffling, and memorable moments of magic. These are marvelous tapes which should be carefully studied by anyone desiring to be a better magician.

There's an old saying that art is in the details, and attention to detail is one of the lessons which Juan imparts to us on these tapes. For that reason I will go into some detail concerning the contents of the three tapes.

First, I should mention that these tapes go against the current trend of giving you an encyclopedic approach to a subject. Whereas many three-volume series may give you a hundred different items (which, due to time constraints must be fairly cursorily explained), the Lessons in Magic videos contain only 14 items. This means that the explanations of these routines are deep; Juan has time to explain every nuance of his performance and every detail of the thinking behind the routines. If you are used to absorbing your information in tiny sound-bites, this wealth of information can be overwhelming and intimidating. Repeated viewing is the key. Another suggestion: watch actively, not passively. Take notes. Think. Think. Think. The experience will change you and the way you approach your magic.

I should also let you know that all the effects on these tapes are card routines. Don't let that deter you. Even though Juan possesses remarkable skill with a deck of cards, the routines explained require only average card handling ability. There are a couple of routines which require no digital dexterity whatsoever. And remember, for Juan a deck of cards is simply a tool which allows him to connect emotionally with an audience. These are some of the most entertaining card routines you will ever see.

So what's on the tapes? Volume One begins with one of Juan's most famous and baffling routines, "Neither Blind Nor Stupid." (You can find this routine in Sonata under the title "Neither Blind Nor Silly.") This routine is an object lesson in the Theory of False Solutions. Two cards are selected in a very fair manner. As the cards are returned and subsequently lost in the deck, Juan continually points out conditions which would allow him to discover the cards. Each of these conditions is nullified, and in the process the audience themselves come to the conclusion that the cards are hopelessly lost. After this build-up (which is alternately serious and hysterical), Juan rapidly finds both cards using his highly developed olfactory sense. Pay particular attention to Juan's use of audience management and his mastery of the technique of blatantly lying to the spectators' faces. This is the kind of magic I love.

Volume One continues with Juan's routine for "Follow the Leader." Juan synthesizes elements from Vernon, Daley, Elmsley, and Gioacchino Rossini (what?!) to produce a hilarious and baffling routine. This routine also includes the first example of how Juan establishes the identity of a card without ever showing its face. Next on the tape is a version of "Cards Across." This is not Juan's version of the Larry Grey approach (which is a highlight of Juan's lecture), but rather is an almost sleight-free version which can be found in Sonata under the title "Traveling Cards." Two thought-of cards travel from one ten card packet to another. There is only one move involved, and the result is miraculous. The first tape concludes with "The Caricature," a very simple and commercial effect in which a caricature of the magician appears on the back of a selected card.

Volume Two begins with "The Secret of Magic" in which an odd optical illusion is used to produce a selected card. This is followed by "Four of a Kind," which is the ultimate version of the "Magician Makes Good" effect. A card is selected (no force) and pocketed by a spectator. The card's identity is unknown to all. The magician attempts find the three mates of the selected card. He spreads through the face down deck and casually turns over three widely separated cards. Unfortunately, these cards are of three completely different values. The trick appears to have gone awry, and this impression is reinforced when the selected card is revealed and it does not match any of the reversed cards. In a moment of inspiration, the magician taps the deck with the selected card, and immediately the three mates of the selection turn face up in the deck. This is a fabulous trick; one which I immediately added to my repertoire. In fact, I took this trick to the World Magic Summit, and it flabbergasted all who saw it. Notice how Juan uses body language to convince the spectators that a genuine screw-up has occurred.

The next routine is probably the highlight of the entire series: "El Cochecito," Juan's routine for the Kornwinder Car. You may have seen a truncated version of this routine on the World's Greatest Magic I. A card is selected and lost in the deck. The deck is spread face up on the table, and a small, wooden, toy car is introduced. A spectator pushes the car along the tabletop beside the spread of cards. All of a sudden, the spectator feels the wheels lock up, and the car stops. It's as if someone in the car has hit the brakes. It is confirmed that the car has stopped at the section of the spread where the selected card lies. The small group of cards which contains the selection is removed from the spread and the remainder of the cards placed aside. This small group of cards is dealt out into a row (Juan explains that this will be a road on which the car will ride). The cards in this row are face down; the spectators randomly mix the order of the cards. Another spectator pushes the car over the face down cards. The car stops on the selected card. Words cannot do justice to the impact of this routine. The assisting spectators literally freak out when the little car stops. What you will find interesting in the explanation of this routine is that Juan is less concerned with the mechanics of the trick than he is with understanding the emotional content of the routine. His explanation of why laymen find this routine so appealing is fascinating.

Volume Two concludes with Juan's routine for "The Cannibals," which has an enormously entertaining presentation. Of great interest is how once again Juan is able to establish the identity of a card without ever showing its face.

Volume Three of the series begins with "Los Centauros," a charming and evocative routine which is performed to a lovely musical background. "Sticker" involves the transposition between a pair of red tens and a pair of black tens. The interesting aspect here is that the red tens are placed in a stepped condition and a sticker is affixed to the back of the cards, holding them in place. This would appear to make any manipulation impossible. Juan next quickly demonstrates three routines ("A Number," "Cards to Pocket," and "Rising Card"), which are used to introduce a discussion of the Tamariz Perpendicular Control. This versatile and convincing move was explained in Sonata, but for some reason it has not caught on with American card workers. Juan's performance and explanation on this tape should change that. Next is "Doubly Ambitious," in which two selected cards repeatedly rise together from the center of the deck to the top. Notice how each phase is cleverly constructed to cancel out possible methods. Finally, Volume Three ends with Juan's presentation of Alex Elmsley's "1002 Aces." This is a hilarious presentation, with superb audience involvement.

The performance segments of these tapes were shot in front an audience of about twenty people. The audience seems to react with genuine enthusiasm, which is a refreshing change, since in many of the videos I watch the audience appears to been mostly deceased. During the explanation phase Juan is joined by Jim Krenz, who helps clarify any details. English is perhaps fourth down on Juan's fluency list, but his explanations are clear and elegant, and you will have no problem understanding him.

These are fabulous tapes. All three are absolute "must buys" for any magician who wants to improve his magic. If you can only afford one tape, start with Volume Two, and pick up the rest as soon as you can. My thanks to SeƱor Juan for sharing these marvelous routines and the theory behind them, and thanks to A-1 for making these valuable tapes available to the magic community. Very highly recommended.

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