The Online Journal of the Art of Magic
You Can Count On Elmsley
by Andi Gladwin
So, as with last month's article, we're not going to look at the meaning of magic, we're not even going to discuss the character of the magician, but instead we're going to talk about practical side of magic. In today's lesson my friends, we will discuss Andi's thoughts on the Elmsley Count.
Let's get straight into it by saying that, in my opinion the biggest flaw that we tend to make is to interpret the action of the count incorrectly, and this is probably due to the name. There are two ways we can use the move; as a count and as a display. In the context of ninety-nine percent of magic the count is used as a display. Vernon's "Twisting The Aces" for example - are we counting the cards or displaying them? Although the difference isn't a massive one, it helps a great deal for the performer, especially when it comes to the 'inner voice.'
I'll go into more detail on 'inner voice' another time, but basically it all boils down to what you think while you perform or execute a move. If during a display you think, "Ok one switch - two... three four. Done, phew!" You'll have difficulty portraying that you're displaying the cards and not showing that there are only four cards in your hand. In the context of a display, just think about showing the audience the backs of four cards - be interested in the cards yourself, and don't misdirect.
You heard me, don't misdirect. There seems to be a deadly rumour going around that if you want to execute a move well, you need to misdirect from the action. Not in this case. We're displaying or counting the cards for the sake of the audience and if we were to direct their attention somewhere else, we'd be failing at this task. Misdirection is great for a Classic Pass (perhaps not for a Riffle Pass), it's fantastic for a card reversal, but it's not needed for Double Lifts, Colour Changes and displays or anything that is done for the benefit of the spectator.
So, if we're not misdirecting, that means we must have a fantastic handling of the move. The visual points that make a good Elmsley Count in my opinion are:
Smoothness - you're simply displaying or counting four cards. This means that from an audience point of view, there's really no excuse for fumbling around.
Effortless - For a simple reason as with smoothness, the Elmsley Count should take little or no effort, both mentally and physically. Don't grip the cards too tightly and just let them effortlessly glide through your hands.
Rhythm - I remember hearing a story that Juan Tamariz uses a metronome to display the rhythm of an Elmsley Count and I think it's an excellent idea to practice using one. At a lecture I recently attended, Geoffrey Durham suggested finding a piece of music that matches your performance pace and using the beat and rhythm to practice to. One thing that I sometimes use is to say, "Look at the cards," While I practice, and pull a card off during each word. A similar idea can be used to keep rhythm during performance.
Clarity - All of the above points group together to help clarify the count to the audience, but it should still be considered - how can I make the move even more clear? Holding the cards horizontal, or parallel to the floor often leads to disaster, and in fact, Eugene Burger suggests a nice alternative in Genii magazine, August, 1999.
Movement - All of the movement should come from the hand that takes the cards and the other hand should stay perfectly still.
Alignment - The starting packet should always stay reasonably aligned (unless, of course you're a messy card handler), but the 'counted' packet need not match. In fact, allowing the bottom card to move slightly into view immediately after the switch strengthens the display a lot (if someone was expecting unnatural handlings that is).
I'll finish by saying that there are a lot of excellent handlings out there for this move. For the record, I use the original version of the move that Alex Elmsley published, where the cards start in right hand pinch grip and end in left hand dealer's grip. The reason I use pinch grip as opposed to a dealer's grip is to appear as if I'm being extremely fair, without verbally pointing it out.
A few other popular handlings and variations that you may like to check out are Underground Elmsley (so named by Phil Goldstein, but not really a massive variation), Jim Krenz's Revolving Elmsley, Smile Count and Elmsley Flustration Count. Roger Klause's "Lovely Idea" from Mike Close's Workers 5 book is a nice idea for performing the move in a spectator's hands. Paul Gordon's ITHEC is very similar, as is John Bannon's unnamed move in Smoke And Mirrors.
Finally, for those who are interested why Dai Vernon used a finger-tip to finger-tip handling in one of his most famous works, "Twisting The Aces" you may like to hear this little story that I heard from Peter Duffie. Apparently, Jack Avis showed Vernon an effect that made use of this wonderful move, but with jumbo cards. Of course, you can't deal jumbo cards into dealer's grip, so Avis was forced to use a finger-tip to finger-tip handling. Vernon learnt the move from Avis and because of the use of jumbo cards was forced to believe that was how the move was executed. So now you know!
For those interested, I started work on next month's article a few weeks ago, and I can honestly tell you that's its one of my best works. The reason you're not seeing it this month is because I wanted to add even more to it I think you're really going to like it - so don't forget to come back soon! Until then, I hope you have a really good month, and for no other reason than self-publicity, I think you should click this link!
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