I pick the nine of diamonds and throw it back in Camilo Dominguez’s deck of cards. He shuffles faster than I can see.
He asks if my card is the 10 of hearts and I’m struck with worry – either he’s a lousy magician or I can’t remember anything beyond four seconds.
He flips the 10 card under the Bicycle playing cards box, and somehow, of course, it’s flipped into my nine of diamonds moments later. Even under the all-seeing eye of a video camera, it’s hard to spot the cool sleight-of-hand of the 21-year-old magician.
The young son of Colombia has come a long way since wowing students in the halls of Belmont secondary with his preternatural talent to make the cards dance.
Since graduating from Belmont in 2008, he’s honed his magic show at the Havana Club in Vancouver, and is launching his first professional Victoria performances next week at the Belfry Theatre.
“I’ve tried to move my magic to a different level,” Dominguez says. “I use two projection screens and a camera so the audience can see the magic close up.”
Dominguez was drawn to sleight-of-hand magic as a child and attended the Bogota School of Magic as a teenager, before moving to Canada for high school. He learned the secrets of pulling rabbits from hats and sawing people in half, but he prefers the simplicity of a pack of cards.
“At Belmont I was challenging myself with the language and getting in front of people,” he says. “Now it’s more about surprising the audience with two hands and a deck of cards.”
His Belfry performances are titled “Continuum,” based on the theme of time and connections. His setup is simple and intimate – a chair for him and an audience member, a table and a deck of cards and video projectors to make sure the crowd doesn’t miss a beat.
“For Continuum I do tricks that are a challenge in 10 seconds or 20 seconds, whatever the audience asks for,” he says. “It’s about surprising the audience and surprising myself.
“Each show I try to make it fresh, but a show is set by the mood of the audience.”
His parents are travelling to Victoria to see his show, the first time they’ve seen him perform outside of Colombia. That’s a big thrill, Dominguez says, and he hopes his friends and audience from Belmont will come out to see him on stage.
Dominguez says despite the thematics, every performance is different and evolving. New tricks come during interactions with audience members and friends, many who just throw out odd ideas.
“My friends will say ‘make a card appear in a soccer ball or some different object,” he says. “I go home and try to create it with the tools and skills I have.”
He is on his last semester of theatre production school at Studio 58 at Langara College in Vancouver, part of a larger strategy to make a career as a working magician. Understanding the nuts and bolts of stage management – lighting, sound, set design – can be as critical as stage presence. It all must come together before the cards come out.
“That is the most facinating thing about magic – anything you want, you can make it happen, with practise of course.”
Camilo Dominguez’s Continuum is at the Belfry Theatre from June 29 to July 2.