Oh boy, David Blaine Teaches Magic! If you're interested in the course contents, click here. For a review of the course, keep reading below!
Back in May, the course kicked off. It was 30 days long and covered magic across several areas including cards, coins, and even gags. On the course description page, one of the frequently asked questions had a good answer to help set expectations about the experience level being covered though:
I wrote about the course a few days after I started it and wanted to give a proper review after I've finished. Well, let's dive in!
The course, fully titled David Blaine Teaches Magic, was offered via the online app Studio. We're told that we will learn 30 tricks in 30 days with none other than David Blaine himself!
The 30 tricks are spread out over the 30 days of the month in different video lectures that all feature David Blaine, but many of them also have Asi Wind and Steve Cuiffo sitting at the table with him, equally participating. There are a couple of the videos with other guests that make appearances as well, such as in the Breath Holding and Breaking Handcuffs lectures.
The schedule is structured in a way where, after each video, you have a chance to submit a project. These projects are video recordings of you performing what you had just learned. Once submitted, your peers that are taking the course with you have a chance to provide feedback on your performance, and you can provide feedback on theirs as well.
Most of the course is on card magic. There are a few coin and bill tricks, and some physical feats like I mentioned above. The course even touches on theory, inventing tricks, and how to keep learning once the course is complete. All in all, it's a package deal!
Expectations vs. Reality
As I hinted at initially, my expectations of this course were that it was going to be very basic. Something like a video version of one of those magic kits you get for Christmas when you're 10.
Why did I think this? Well, the quote at the top of this page for starters. It flat out says that with zero experience, you'll be able to perform these routines right away. As someone who's studied magic for years -- practice is a big part of it. I can walk away from this course and perform magic, without practice?! They must be tricks with a setup, or simple self-working tricks, or something ridiculously basic right?
On top of that, when we were introduced to our peer groups on Day 1 I didn't get the best impression. Of the unknown number of people who registered for the course, we were separated into groups of 20. In my group of 20, only 3 of us had prior magic experience. And that includes David Blaine, who was the 20th member of everyone's peer group (like Tom from Myspace...).
So, to repeat, my expectations were that this course was going to be very basic that it was a way to get to see how David Blaine thinks and his approach to magic.
Time for a Dose of Reality
Lesson 1, Introduction to Magic: Key Card. Look... I'm going to admit, I laughed when I thought about how I spent money to learn about a key card. I know key card magic. I have used it for years. It's, well, beginner magic. And then, they took me to school.
In a 23 minute video, David, Asi, and Steve went not only over how to use a key card when performing, but how to catch glimpses, how to psychologically force a glimpse, and they even cover the Breather Crimp when diving into Pit Hartling's Finger Flicker routine (with his permission). Psychological forces, not quite beginner material. Breather Crimps, very much not beginner material.
I was hooked from lesson one, and I watched the rest with enthusiasm. However, the enthusiasm did wane over time as the individual lessons became less "action packed" as the first one was. The only, in my opinion, comparable one to the level of excitement was the Improvisational Magic & Bets lesson, which was Lesson 2. These first two lessons, also including the bonus "advanced" Lesson 1 add-on, were non-stop back-and-forth tip and technique, and the three magicians kept building off one another. It was amazing!
Looking back at the first two lessons, after I had completed the first week, I realized that my enthusiasm for them was because of having the existing knowledge of the routine basics. Knowing how to do the handling upfront gave me the added benefit of being able to listen more succinctly to their words and the wisdom they were trying to share. This goes back to many magicians who will say, time and time again, that they would read or watch the same thing over and over and over. I wondered, for the longest time, why would you keep going back to something after you've already learned how to do it -- and it's because there's more there.
I only expected the content to be covered in breadth due to the different topics and genres being covered, but there were areas where we saw depth too. The Out of This World lecture, wow. Prior to this course, I only knew the original version. I thought the original was good; albeit I've never performed it because it just doesn't really fit my style, but wow. This course went over several variations of it, even how to perform the routine with a shuffled deck in use! Do you know what I did the night I learned that version? I performed it! It also helped further beat into this thick skull of mine the fact that with any magic sleight or routine, you can always play with the concept more. You can tweak it; you can make it more "you."
The physical feats lectures were my least favorite. The Arm Twist, yeah not my thing. I pretty quickly figured out how it worked since I saw David perform it on TV when I was a kid and didn't care for it then either. That lecture, however, did cover a very important topic that applies to all of the other types of magic though -- How to Make People Care. You know that line: "hey, want to see a card trick?" It's not a very good hook now, is it? Knowing how to be a performer, how to get people interested and invested -- now that's an important skill.
I was disappointed with the Breaking Handcuffs lecture. I bought a pair of handcuffs before the course started too. I guess I didn't pay enough attention because I thought we were going to do a magic trick with them, something neat like an escape artist type of trick. No, not quite. Spoiler alert but uh, you physically destroy the pair of handcuffs. It's a "strongman" trick that will cost you $28.95 (plus tax) to perform. But hey, at least I have a pair of handcuffs now! I'm sure there's a trick or two I can figure out with them.
By the end of the course, my excitement and enthusiasm did dwindle. This is primarily because the last few lectures, not including the Brainstorming the Trick ones were the physical feats. All of the gas was at the very beginning of the course, and I felt like we were running a bit on empty there towards the end. This is important to note, but the end met that original expectation of the course being a way to see how David Blaine approaches magic and how he thinks.
Studio Platform Opinion
I've used a few different online platforms for different magic courses. The official MasterClass platform, Teachable, and a couple of regular streaming services that have no fancy features. Studio is a bit similar to MasterClass and Teachable, but it definitely has its own vibe.
I did enjoy the concept of having a peer group to work through the course with. Unfortunately, my peer group wasn't that active. Instead, even though I was uploading my projects for my peer group, folks that I've never met or heard of before were the ones providing feedback. I didn't mind since the entire idea was the get feedback, but I can see how it would make people uncomfortable. You're supposed to be working with this small(ish) class and some jerk from next door decides to crash the party.
The structure of the day-by-day lessons was an interesting one too. It made it more of an actual course opposed to a catalog to stream. 30 days of non-stop deadlines though, it was really pushing it. And you couldn't unlock the next content before completing the previous stuff. I get the whole day-by-day concept, but the lessons didn't really follow one another so there wasn't a big point to it.
Studio isn't my favorite platform, but it got the job done. It allowed me to focus on the course itself, guided me through the daily lessons, and provided a decent way to upload content and receive feedback on it. I don't think we need yet another online course platform, but hey, who am I to judge.
If all the above didn't spell it out well enough, let me summarize here.
I think that, for someone just getting into magic, this course is a pretty good resource. If you're interested in how David Blaine approaches magic, or how Asi Wind or Steve Cuiffo both approach their stuff -- yeah, I recommend it!
If, however, you're an established magician, it's not worth the price. For the price of this course, you could instead get 4 months of Vanishing Inc.'s VI+ which would get you 12 several-hour-long lectures and live chats, and you'd have money left over to buy that pair of handcuffs! But, again, if you're really into David Blaine, go for it!
Also, while the course is titled "David Blaine Teaches Magic", it really is a team effort here and we get so much more from it because of the group participation. I don't think that this course would have the same level of content if it were just Blaine alone. Things really, really picked up when the group started bouncing ideas back and forth. Was it scripted to be that way? Most likely. However, while watching these three guys up there at the table, you feel like you're sitting at the table with them. And that was worth the experience!