Nine-year-old Nicole Holzman lay on her back on a five-foot board, supported at each end with the back of a chair. Suddenly, "Christian the Magician" pulled a chair away, but Holzman, with only one chair supporting her, remained still.
The parents and their children enrolled in the Hocus Pocus Magic Camp sat mesmerized before breaking into loud applause and cheers. The act culminated a magic and dance show by the youths in the camp held last week at the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church near Chevy Chase Circle NW.
The camp, codirected by professional magician Dick Christian and producer Joe Jeff, taught juggling, magic and mime to the youths age 9 to 14. It is one of two magic camps in the country -- the other is the Tennen Magic Co. Camp in New York City -- but it is the only one that mixes magic with other arts, according to Al Cohen of the District of Columbia Office of the International Branch of Magicians.
"A camp like this eliminates a lot of the children's inhibitions," said Jeff, who became involved in magic when he was 5 years old and performed for $15 at birthday parties before he was a teen-ager. "It has a healing effect on the kids. It's great for their ego when they know they can do such things at a young age."
Christian, who has performed at the White House and the Smithsonian Institution, has been a magician for 35 years, 17 of them professionally. His father was a vaudeville ventriloquist and magician. "This is a very intense, demanding program," he said. "It's not a get-rich scheme. We enjoy teaching the kids because they are at an age where they can really develop their talents. The lessons are performance oriented."
The camp's staff included Nancy Lynner, a juggling instructor, and 14-year-old Jason (The Magician) Stauffer, who uses magic as a "paying hobby" and volunteered his time.
Their students each paid $75 for five days of lessons, which ran from 9 a.m. until noon. Twenty-eight youths participated, with about two-thirds from the District.
"I learned how to juggle and do all sorts of magic," said Holzman of Northwest Washington. "I guess I want to be a magician someday."
"(The camp) was great," said Michelle Holzman, one of 50 parents who watched the show. "The instructors were so attentive. Every day Nicole came home, she would show us a new trick. She would put on a little show. Her juggling really improved."
Edwin Nichely, 11, who lives in Northwest Washington and attends McLean School in Potomac, learned several tricks. "I learned how to tear up a paper ball and put it back together and how to make coins disappear," he said."And I can make a girl float just like Christian the Magician did."
The youths, wearing yellow Camp Hocus Pocus T-shirts, started the show by running onto the stage and forming three uneven rows. After they danced and mimed to "We've Got Magic to Do," a song from the muscial "Pippin," they ran into the audience and each tore up a piece of paper, rolled up the pieces and unraveled them into one piece. They returned to the stage, juggling bean bags and scarves, until they introduced Christian, who performed a 15-minute magic show.
With the help of 11-year-old Malama Chock's impersonation of a chicken and 8-year-old Jordan Hadley's mastery of a broken weand, Christian made an egg disappear in a small, black bag. After making magical wonder with a piece of string, Christian performed his floating trick.
Christian said there is more to magic than just creating an illusion. "You can't just know the secret, you've got to know how to present the trick," he said. "That's where mime comes in. It allows you to present the trick more gracefully."
After the show, the youths received diplomas designating them as junior magicians. The diplomas were distributed in reverse alphabetical order. "I feel sorry for the kids who always got things at the end because of the way their name is spelled," Christian explained.