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Q&A: Dylan Ballingall, the guy who performs magic tricks outside Raptors games

Q&A: Dylan Ballingall, the guy who performs magic tricks outside Raptors games

If you’ve been to a Raptors game, you may have seen him before. The “Raptors Magician,” Dylan Ballingall, can be found in Maple Leaf Square before games, performing sleight-of-hand tricks to the incredulous shrieks of onlookers. We spoke with him about his craft.

You perform outside Scotiabank Arena during Raptors home games. Is that an official role? Did you audition for that? Officially I’m a member of the Raptors Interactive Squad. I applied, and at the end of the interview they give each person 60 seconds to show off a talent that would be beneficial to the team. I did magic. It blew them away and I got the job.

So you’re a street magician, then? Is that the right label? You could say street magician. The streets are my favourite environment to perform in. The initial face people make—basically “who the hell is this guy”—is hilarious to me. They aren’t taking me seriously and don’t expect the magic to be good.

Which of your tricks gets the biggest reaction? I perform a trick in which a deck of cards changes into a block of glass while in the spectator’s hands. That always gets a huge reaction.

What’s the most unusual reaction you’ve had? Some people get genuinely frustrated when they’re fooled by a trick and act hostile toward the magician afterwards. I performed for an older man in his sixties, and he seemed very mild mannered and calm, but after I correctly guessed which of his hands was hiding a coin four times in a row, he pointed at me and shouted, “This is rigged! There’s a GPS in this coin! This guy is a fraud!” Then he handed me the coin and walked off like nothing had happened.

What was the first trick you learned? I got a trick deck of cards when I was eight. I would go to my friends at school and ask them to pick a card. I would say, “you selected the three of clubs,” and they didn’t know the entire deck was the three of clubs. The reactions made me want to learn legitimate tricks and improve as a magician.

Magic seems to require a lot of tedious practice for an uncertain payoff. Are all magicians perfectionist loners or is that just a cliché? If you look at any famous magician, I guarantee they were one of the “weird kids” in school growing up. Performing a difficult move with cards can take months just to get the foundation down, and then months on top of that to make adjustments and get the move more smooth. In order to be successful, you need to be very independent and a loner in that sense.

Dexterity is important for magic. Do you have a hand-strengthening routine? I try to shuffle cards and practice sleights every day for a couple hours if I have the time. Warming up your hands is crucial before performing, as the dexterity and speed need to be there. Magicians have pre-performance routines that could be compared to an athlete’s pre-game routine. Some warm up by playing the guitar or typing on a keyboard.

If the Orlando Magic made a reasonable offer, would you work for them? It would make you the Orlando Magic Magician. No chance! I’m loyal to the Raptors until the day I die!

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