Buskers, con men and magicians throughout history have displayed their awe-inspiring “the hand is quicker than the eye” skills with a time honored yet baffling rendition of the Cups and Balls. This seemingly simple effect of passing small objects through a solid cup and making them jump from one cup to the next has mesmerized audiences probably since the time of the Pharaohs. There may even be a painting of a magician doing cups and balls on the walls of a tomb. The picture may be next to one of the same guy been killed for fooling the Pharaoh. Heck the painting might even be on the wall of the magician’s own tomb.
Cups have been created in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and materials to accommodate an equally as varied style of ball and the all-important final load. If you bump into a magician in the grocery store, chances are better than not that he is probably looking for final loads! Fruits and vegetables are the most popular final loads. Although Johnny Ace Palmer produces baby chicks; Don Allan used baseballs and Paul Gertner produced a solid steel ball as final load. Anything that will fit inside the cup can be used as a final load.
Years ago, Aldo Colombini performed a routine in which he would flip a cup from one hand to the other while it contained the knit ball! That was an amazing feat! Countless different flourishes can be added to a simple routine to step it excitement.
Every magician, whether working close-up, corporate hospitality suites, or street fairs should have a cups and balls routine. They should study Di Vernon’s classic routine and learn from a master of the art. Even a simply performed basic routine that comes with the small plastic set, with enough humor and or mystery added to the routine can make it intriguing even to the toughest crowd. Well-known street performers, real street performers, the likes of Kozmo and Gazzo, and close-up performers like Michael Ammar and Ricky Jay have a cups and balls routine as a staple in their shows.
So, if it’s good enough for the pros…
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