Magic Lessons #26 – Cups and Balls Trick
If you are looking for a classic magic trick, you can’t go past the “Cups and Balls Trick”. There have been many, many versions over the years that have been performed over the years. The effect is known as “acetabula et calculi“ and it is known to have been performed by Roman conjurers as far back as two thousand years ago.
The Cups and Balls trick has been used by many street performers around the world. The magic trick is not effected by what angle the audience is viewing the trick from which is good for street performers who have audiences from all angles. The Cups and Balls trick is also not affected by the elements and can still work a treat even if there is a light rain or a particularly windy area. The metal cups can also play a part in creating an audience because of the sound they create throughout the duration of the magic trick. These are just some of the reasons the Cups and Balls Trick is in many street performer’s repertoires.
The Origins of the Cups and Balls Trick:
The commonly performed version of the Cups and Balls trick is performed with three cups and three small balls. The performer stands behind the table and makes the balls seemingly fall through the solid bottoms of the cups, jump from cup to cup, disappear from the cup and appear elsewhere or vanish from elsewhere and seemingly reappear under the cups. This often ends with larger objects such as fruit or even mice appearing under the cups.
Many of magic’s fundamental effects can be identified within the cups and balls trick routine. Some of the effects include appearances, vanishes, substitutions and transportations. Misdirection, manual dexterity and audience management are also some of the basic skills that are critical to the success of the cups and balls trick. This mastery of this particular routine is considered by some to be the litmus test of a good magician. John Mullholland wrote that none other than the great Harry Houdini was of the opinion that anyone who had not mastered the Cups and Balls trick was not an accomplished magician.
Other Great Variations of the Cups and Balls Trick:
This particular version features three plastic cups and balls that have been constructed from scrunched up pieces of paper. The moves are simple and virtually work by themselves. If you enjoy performing this magic trick be sure to search out more complex routines by magicians such as: Penn and Teller, Gazzo, Ricky Jay, Michael Ammar, Peter Wardell and Tommy Wonder.
Michael Ammar is a sublime magic teacher and as such his routine is very meticulous and refined. His routine is the polar opposite from an English street performer such as Gazzo who is credited as the expert as bringing in, holding and captivating a crowd with this magic trick. While Gazzo’s style is in your face and challenging he has become successful by his knowledge of working a crowd and knowing his limits when it comes to crowd interaction. Gazzo is a very knowledgeable and entertaing performer, I suggest you seek out and study his routine.
Tommy Wonder, on the other hand, specializes in the elegant and masterful. Ricky Jay’s routine is far more theatrical and constructed rather intelligently assembled. If you search any of these performers on YouTube you should find a clip of these routines.
This version of the cups and balls trick shown here is simple to learn and perform, it is important to remember that is a beginning or middle trick rather than an end magic trick. The reason for this is you can’t show the cups to anyone at the end of the trick. If you are able to master extra moves to add to this cups and balls trick you may have a classic ending to add to your performances.
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