CANADA ENTERTAINMENT The world's best magicians gather this week in Canada

The world’s best magicians gather this week in Canada


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When Shane Cobalt was eight years old, a relative accidentally sent him on a lifelong journey.

“I saw my grandfather do a card trick at a family gathering. And it fooled me a lot,” says Kobalt.

He fell victim to the “sucker effect” where everyone in the room except you knows how the trick is done.

“No one in my family would tell me how it works, which, when you think about it, was pretty confusing.”

Fast forward to today and Cobalt is representing Canada at the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques (FISM) World Championship of Magic in Quebec.

This week, thousands of magicians from over 50 countries compete in this one-of-a-kind competition where 110 magicians hope to claim the coveted Grand Prix and the title of world’s best magician.

Toronto-based magician Shane Cobalt represents Canada at the FISM World Championship of Magic, which takes place in Quebec from July 25-30. (Eli Glasner/CBC)

This is the first time the competition has been held outside of Europe and Asia, which Canadian magician and 2009 Magic Grand Prix winner Sean Farquhar says is an emotional moment.

“I was literally crying right there,” says Farquhar after learning that Quebec will be the host city of the 2018 competition in Korea. “As a Canadian, my heart has grown 10 times”

First held in 1948, the championship is held every three years, although this year the event was postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to competitions, magicians will trade secrets, attend “jam sessions” and even sell their illusions to the highest bidder.

“I’m terrified with excitement”

Competing this year are two Canadians, including Yannick Lacroix of Quebec and Cobalt, who will compete in the close-up card magic category.

“I’m excited and scared,” Cobalt told CBC News. He qualified for the championship after taking part in the event for the first time last fall.

A Toronto-based magician says that thinking about the audience causes additional stress and excitement.

“Literally every great magician that I grew up, read about … or asked[ed] for the autograph, which will now be there and will watch how I do it.

According to Canadian illusionist Greg Frewin, magicians risk a lot.

Canadian magician Greg Frewin in 2022 at the FISM Magic World Championships in Quebec. Frevin placed first in the general magic category at the 1994 Yokohama Championships, but was denied the grand prix because there was no association of magicians in Canada at the time. (Tegan Bodette/CBC)

“If you even get into the top three in this competition, your life will change,” he says.

Frevin speaks from experience winning first place in the general magic category at the 1994 World Championships in Yokohama, Japan. He currently performs at the Greg Frewin Theater in Niagara Falls, Ontario and trains the next generation of magicians. One of his students, Ding Yang from China, also competes in FISM competitions.

“I can’t give away what she does, but I will say this, there is one part of her performance that no one, male or female, has ever done and probably won’t do for a long time due to skill level and skill set. besides the magic it requires.”

Magician Ding Yang at a rehearsal for the 2022 FISM Magic World Championships in Quebec. Yang is training with Canadian magician Greg Frewin, who says she will perform a trick no one has done before. (Eli Glasner/CBC)

Canada’s Success in Magic

René-Claude Auclair is President and co-organizer of the current FISM World Championships and President of the Canadian Magicians Association. Auclair hopes that hosting the competition in Canada will raise awareness of the magic of the home.

“I don’t think it’s that well known and recognized in North America… the level of competition or how important it is,” she says.

Auclair was a diver in her youth, but when she began to get involved in the world of magic later in life, she realized that Canadian magicians did not have the support system that she had in her other career.

WATCH | Shane Cobalt shares some tricks:

“Feels different when it’s so close”

Toronto-based magician Shane Cobalt shares a trick before heading to Quebec to compete in the FISM World Championship of Magic.

“I had the opportunity to get all these tools when I was young and didn’t see the same kind of sponsorship or support,” she says.

For those Canadian magicians who are recognized, change can happen quickly. After winning the top prize at the 2009 Beijing Championships, Farquhar’s career reached a new level.

“Ellen DeGeneres invited me to the show in the first place, which was kind of crazy,” says Farquhar. He’s made news all over the world, but says “it was a bit quieter in Canada.”

Sean Farquhar, who won the 2009 FISM Grand Prize, poses at the World Championships in Quebec. (Eli Glasner/CBC)

Hosting an event on Canadian soil can play a role in raising the profile of Canadian magicians.

“The more we talk about magic and care, the more magicians perform and the better we become,” says Farquhar.

Proof of this is the thousands of magicians who don’t compete but are still in Quebec for the weekend. One of them is Farhan Islam, known by his stage name Brown Magic. The Montreal magician grew up practicing magic in Bangladesh after seeing American magician David Blaine on TV.

Farhan Islam, known by his stage name Brown Magic, is one of the many magicians who attend FISM championships but do not compete. The Montreal-based magician hopes to represent his native Bangladesh at the next FISM competition. (Tegan Bodette/CBC)

“I came up with a trick and started doing it on the streets of Bangladesh,” he says.

Islam hopes to compete for Bangladesh at the next FISM championship and is in Quebec to test the level of competition. He says he knew about Frevin before coming to Canada and says that Frevin and Farquhar are “superstars”.

“They are very inspiring,” he says. “They’re all rock stars”

modern magic

Farquhar says that top hats and cloaks come to people’s minds when they think of magic, but actually magic is inherently about something else.

“These days when you see magic, it’s not about pulling rabbits out of hats. This is not about a cylinder and tails. It’s really about creating a sense of wonder and letting people escape,” he says.

This sense of wonder can exist even between sorcerers. One of Farquhar’s duties in Quebec would be lecturing some of his peers.

“Magicians rarely have to explain how their secrets work. I’m going to fool them and then I’ll teach them,” he says.

Wanting to know why you were fooled can be a strong motivator, something that fueled Cobalt’s journey to the world championships, which began when he was fooled by his grandfather.

“He planted an incredible seed that grew into a wonderful tree that became my career.”

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