By Ezra R., 6th Grade, Krieger Schechter Day School of Chizuk Amuno Congregation

Cardistry is commonly described as juggling with cards; however, it can pertain to so much more. 

According to Lev E., a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School (KSDS) and a cardistry enthusiast who is well-read about the topic, cardistry consists of doing cuts, shuffles, fans, and tricks with cards in ways that make for a performance similar to yoyoing or juggling. 

Cardistry started when magicians would do simple flourishes, flashy moves, such as fanning out cards or shooting them from one hand to another, which is called a spring.  Gradually, magicians started inventing more flourishes. On the Harry Houdini King of Cards poster (see image), Houdini, a famous magician and escape artist, showcases some of the first card flourishes. As Julia L, a seventh grader at KSDS points out, using cardistry in a magic act can attract the audience’s attention and add an extra flair to the performance.

According to dananddave.com, a website generated by two of the first cardists, brothers Dan and Dave Buck, even though card flourishes were performed through the 18th century, it was not until the late 1990s when it became its own art form. 

What most people consider cardistry originally started as a competition called extreme card manipulation (X.C.M.). However, it was much more intense than cardistry is now. One part of X.C.M. was “elementals,” which would include fire, wind, or water in flourishes. This could mean doing a flourish while a card was on fire, using a fan to keep a card in the air, or throwing cards underwater.

The Buck brothers coined the term cardistry after starting their own community that was more inclusive to new cardists as opposed to X.C.M. They were also the ones who hosted the first major cardistry convention, Cardistry Con, where cardists discuss their passion for this art form.

Despite how common flourishes were, it was mainly social media platforms that gave cardistry the boost it needed to create a community. Using social media, “cardists” can share their skills and flourishes with other cardists. However, even today it is not especially well known. When the KSDS middle school student body was surveyed about its knowledge of cardistry, almost 90% had never heard of it. As Julia points out, it is not easy to grow a genre of art.

Magicians like Noel Heath incorporate cardistry into their magic routines. Heath is a magician who took cardistry and, in the words of Lev, “simply ran with it.” He uses his skill in cardistry to make cards stay in seemingly gravity-defying positions and fly into his hands. Currently, Heath owns a playing card company named Anyone Worldwide. 

Lev says, “The current main pioneers of cardistry are the Virtuosos, or the Virts.” With 150k subscribers on video sharing website YouTube, the Virts are some of the more well-known cardists on social media. The Virts are comprised of four Singaporean men who post cardistry videos and tutorials to their fan base. They were even featured on the Discovery Channel. Lev adds that “the Virts were also the first people ever to make a deck of cards specifically for cardistry.” The cards in the Virts’s deck make special designs when fanned and have simplistic face cards.

Furthermore, Lev adds that cardistry can be a way for magicians to show they are skillful and know how to handle cards. This can allow a magician to build rapport with the audience before a trick even begins.

Cardistry began with fanning and simple flourishes, but it has grown into its own community and includes conventions, shows, and online forums. Despite being one of the lesser known art forms, cardistry has now found a place and a community with people all over the world.

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