Believe it or not

Psycho stunts and mind manipulation come to Holon for the Israeli Magicians’ Society 30th anniversary festival.

May 2, 2012 21:23
4 minute read.
Belgian mentalist Jan Bardi

Belgian mentalist Jan Bardi 370. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Jan Bardi has performed for Lebanese, Egyptian, Turkish and Moroccan audiences, but his trip to Holon this week marks his first visit to Israel.

“I’m a tourist as much as I’m a mentalist,” says Bardi in an interview with The Jerusalem Post ahead of his arrival. The Belgian self-coined “psychostunt” performer specializes in predicting mass behavior, guessing spectator’s dreams and forecasting future events, all without the use of magic, paranormal or supernatural powers.

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“I know that the basic explanation of what I’m doing is just common, down-to-earth, ordinary applied psychology but I’m doing everything I can to hide that fact from audiences,” he says. “I give the impression that somehow I can enter in your head, maybe read your mind, maybe see your destiny and into your future.”

Those oh-so basic psychological principles he refuses to reveal.

“That must remain a secret because that’s the way entertainment is maximized,” Bardi, 50, says furtively.

The Israeli Magicians’ Society invited him to perform at its International Magicians’ Festival May 3- 8 at the Holon Theater in honor of its 30th anniversary, along with a host of Israeli and foreign magicians and telepathy artists, including Israeli stars Nimrod Harel and Tomer Dudai, Korean magician Yu Ho Jin, Andrew Wayne, an American magician who mentors top acts like David Copperfield and David Blaine, American children’s magician Doug Scheer and Japanese close-up wizard Shoot Ogawa.

Shows for the public take place May 3, featuring a late night cabaret for adults, a family show and the international show of the featured magicians.

In his performances Bardi plans to “crowd control” 800 people by putting them in a time-pressured situation to perform a task in two minutes and then predict in detail the group members’ behavior. He says a group’s behavior becomes so predictable to him that he can forecast days in advance what the group will do at his performances.

Bardi also plans on showing tarot cards to tell audience members their futures.

Dahlia Pelled, one of the society’s founders and the president since 2004, says the festival will not only showcase some of the best talent to the public, but will also serve as an opportunity for magicians to talk shop. The other days of the festival will be devoted to workshops and seminars for the magicians.

“In order to be able to learn magic you need to be able to meet other magicians,” says Pelled, arguing that learning from the Internet is not enough.

Pelled, a magician in her own right and the author of The Big Magic Book, says her show combines magic with mentalism.

Bardi, who has appeared on television shows Phenomenon and Masters of the Paranormal, got to know Israeli mystifer Uri Geller, magicians Guy Bavli and Ehud Segev on the shows. He says in the festival he is especially looking forward to learning from the Israeli talent, and about what separates them from other artists around the world.

“I wish I knew more about [Israeli magic] and one of the reasons why I’m coming is to find out not only about mentalism, but also the other magic that Israel has. I’m really looking forward to that.”

In turn, he believes he can provide guidance to younger magicians at the festival, helping them to rediscover classic magic tricks and reinterpret them, as well as learn to perform in different environments.

“I think I can help Israeli magicians that may not have bridged the gap between TV and live entertainment,” he says. “A well-rounded mentalist knows both.”

The diverse group of magicians at the festival specializes in a range of areas, for instance Jin is known for card manipulation and sleight of hand, while Scheer works to make magic accessible in educational settings.

“Everyone can find his cup of tea or his type of magic that he likes doing,” Pelled says.

While Israel has a reputation for the caliber of its mentalists, American magicians are considered the most skilled at “close up” (magic performed close to the audience) and verbally interacting with the audience, and the Asian magicians are especially skilled in slight of hand, she says.

It was around 1990 when Bardi says he came up with the term for his specialty of psycho-stunts. In Western Europe at the time, mentalism, a sub-field of magic, was all but unknown, he says. Rather than explain mentalism repeatedly to audiences, who met his use of the term with blank stares, Bardi chose another word to more accurately describe his work.

“It’s studying people by using psychological principles as a detainment,” says Bardi, who was born in Leuven and studied engineering and economics before launching his act in 1985 by accurately predicting the outcome of his country’s elections. The stunt garnered tremendous attention.

The Society boasts roughly 150 members and as part of its regular activities mentors a group of young people ages 12-18 from across Israel interested in magic once a month. Despite the fact that even younger audiences are becoming more sophisticated, the universal appeal of magic and mental tricks will never die.

“It’s so creative it’s unbelievable,” says Pelled.

Ticket Purchase: or by Telephone: *9066. Ticket prices range from NIS 80- 200.

Family Show – May 3 at 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Holon Theater large hall. Late Night Cabaret – May 3 at 10-11 p.m., Holon Theater intimate hall.

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