by Minh Minh & Le Huong
|Magic moments: Don't be surprised if, walking around the capital, you accidentally pass by a group of young people lost in flying coins, strings or magic cards, which may suddenly disappear from the skilful hands of the performers and then be found in someone's pocket.—VNP Photos
(VNS) On sunny Sunday afternoons near Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake and Thong Nhat Park in Ha Noi, you may come across groups of young people lost in flying coins, strings or magic cards, which may suddenly disappear from the skilful hands of the performers and then be found in someone's pants' pocket.
They are members of a growing group of street magicians who, unlike professional magicians, do magic tricks for fun rather than to earn a living.
The street musicians use no sound systems or stage lights.
They go by nicknames: Long Kaito, Lee Adrian, Joker Boy, Nam Nie, KT Magic.
According to fans, street magic has been popular in Viet Nam since 2001, when Adrian Lee Viet Anh, otherwise known as "Mixed Blood Sorcerer", gave his first performance at Ly Thai To Square, near Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of the capital city.
However, it was not until 2011 that the art reached its climax, with free performances in public places attended by many fans.
Kieu Ton Son, a student in Ha Noi, said that as a child, he was a fan of noted magician David Copperfield. So he tried to learn the art himself using materials gleaned from the internet.
"Street magic is not for people without real passion and patience," he said. "It requires not only skilful hands and sharp eyes but also great patience, as you have to practise a lot."
Son went on to study with Anh Tu, a local street magician, who helped him learn the distinction between street magic and stage magic and taught him about the character of a true magician.
After six years, Son has become known as a hot street magician in Ha Noi's magicians' circle, which includes hundreds of students divided into four clubs – Society of Secret (SOS) and L.E.A.D, Fun, Code and Bum and Wind – as well as dozens of smaller groups.
Duy Anh, who works on the website vietmagician.com and also owns Ellusionist, a shop that sells props, said the biggest challenge street magic practitioners faced was sceptical audiences.
"Audience sometimes think that we are cheating them to get their ticket money," he said.
Ha Khanh, a famous street magician, complained that the movement had failed to advance significantly in the past five years.
"There are now more shops offering props for practitioners, but you can't become a real magician just by buying props," he said.
Khanh believed many practitioners were exploiting the fans' passion to earn money, distorting an art form that was more about performance for its own sake than profits.
Magician Bao Linh complained that many skilful practitioners had to make props themselves due to the lack of money, while others with less experience could perform better magic tricks as they had more money to buy professional props.
"That's why skilful street magicians are often less popular than amateurs," he said.
Linh said there should be a place where professional magicians could perform, distinguishing themselves from amateurs.
People's Artist Vu Ngoan Hop suggested that an annual festival for street magicians be created, which would resemble the annual festival of stage magicians.
"We [the Viet Nam Circus Federation] plan to teach audiences about magic and then establish a fan club for circuses and magic," he said.
Hop expressed his sympathy with magic enthusiasts, who have gathered in clubs and groups to share their passion but have not received any help from concerned agencies.
"Culture managers like the Performing Art Agencies and Theatrical Artists Association and culture departments in provinces should consider this art form something that, if properly nurtured, can positively affect a local community," he said. "If we can, we should offer training classes, clubs and camps for street magicians."
And a special theatre for the art, he said, could encourage both street and stage magicians to perform for international tourists. —VNS