Obscure Origins: Twirl Change
Where did this popular colour change come from?
There is a lot of misinformation regarding the origin of the colour change commonly known as the “Twirl Change” or “Shake Change”. For this reason, I thought I’d do some research and find out, once and for all, who should receive credit for this popular move.
Many people believe the change was the invention of Canadian close-up magician Jay Sankey. Others argue that it is an Ed Marlo idea, and yet another group of vocal magicians insist that Noel Stanton first published the move as the Pivot Color Change. So who’s right?
Jay Sankey is responsible for popularising the colour change and giving it a more sensible name, but Ed Marlo developed the actual technique. Jon Racherbaumer published it in 1983 (see M-U-M, Vol. 73, No. 2, page 16). Marlo gave it the snappy title “In Lieu Of The Thru-the Fist Flourish” (I can understand why Sankey opted to shorten it). Marlo initially intended it to be used as a way to secretly turn over a packet of cards, either during a magical gesture or when placing the cards into dealing position.
In the write-up, Racherbaumer cites Noel Stanton’s Pivot Color Change as the inspiration for the move (see page 43 of The Gen, Vol. 20, No. 1) . Noel’s change uses the same general motion, but the card is held in a vertical potion, not a horizontal one, making it more suitable when performing for larger groups. Stanton mentions that his change is based on one by Bob Hummer, published on page 53 of Dai Vernon’s Inner Secrets of Card Magic by Lewis Ganson.
In the video below, Ekaterina performs what is, essentially, Noel Stanton’s Pivot Color Change. However, Noel held the card with the palm facing his audience, which resulted in a more natural grip. The get-ready for this handling is more challenging because you have to rotate the card into position with your left thumb as you raise your hand to chest height (assuming the cards are being held in left-hand dealer’s grip to begin with). While the mechanics aren’t difficult, there is a greater risk that you’ll accidentally flash the back-to-back configuration of the cards, either when getting into position to perform the change or after the transformation, when attempting to clean up (ditching the original card on the top of the deck).
Ekaterina is teaching Marlo’s handling, which is far more practical in most close-up situations because it makes the clean-up very easy indeed. It is especially good when you find yourself surrounded, because you’d need to be lying on the floor to discover how the change works! You must also watch out for young children, though, who, due to their height, may well notice the extra hidden card and then announce its presence to the world, much to your chagrin!
In my opinion, the original vertical handling, as devised by Noel, is far more elegant than Marlo’s and happens right next to your face. This makes it a good choice when performing for a larger group in a parlour-style situation (with your entire audience in front of you).
I’d encourage you to experiment with and practice both handlings. It is also possible to turn this into a double colour change by picking up a triple instead of a double. Briefly perform the Pivot Color Change as usual, and then immediately follow it with a Double Turnover; this enables the second change to happen in the hands of your participant.
The biggest mistake I see magicians making when performing this colour change is that they shake the card too vigorously or for too long. Yes, you need a larger action to hide the smaller one, but the transformation is far more magical-looking when you attempt to minimise the shaking action. Depending on the size of your hands, and the length of your fingers, you might also need to experiment with different grips and positions to make the change work well for you. This Twirl Change variation, using an unusual grip performed by Ben Seidman, is particularly beautiful, as is all of Ben's magic.
In summary, The Twirl Change is an application of Ed Marlo’s In Lieu Of The Thru-the-Fist Flourish, which was inspired by Noel Stanton’s Pivot Color Change, which itself was based on Bob Hummer’s Visual Change. So now you know where this wonderful move originated!
P.S. Alex Boyer has some interesting touches on this sleight in the tutorial video below.
Here’s another tutorial for the Twirl Change by Will Jones and Ellusionist. Will shares some helpful tips to make the colour change more deceptive. He also explains a simple routine that uses the change.
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