Camilo the Magician’s captivating magic shows and close up tricks have made him a fixture of Vancouver entertainment. He has been astounding audiences in both private shows and public spectacles, on stages around the world, since childhood. His latest public show, Somnium, was full of close up magic. He confused and amazed audiences with cards, runic cubes, and rings. Walking out of the Granville Island Stage afterwards, all that could be heard was question after question- how did he do that? After seeing Somnium, (which you can read more about here) I caught up with Camilo downtown. When I arrived, he was seated, relaxed, in a t-shirt, with a pack of cards comfortably in his hands.
LL: Introduce yourself.
CD: My name is Camilo Dominguez. I’m from Bogota, Columbia. I moved to B.C. when I was 14, to Victoria for high school, with my brothers.
What do you do?
Magic. I try to do as many private shows as I can. They work in different ways: it can be close up magic, which is my favourite kind of magic — like, table to table. Or it can be a big show for everyone at the same time. You watched Somnium?
I did, yes.
It could be like that with a big screen and projector and everyone sees the same thing at the same time. But my favourite thing is cards. Cards and coins and everything that is-
Rings, yes. You saw Somnium. Everybody likes the rings, for some reason.
How does magic change the way you see things?
It changes everything! I guess the way you look at magic changes, because you know how everything works. It’s a weird feeling because you don’t get that surprise as much anymore, but when you actually get surprised it’s a really good feeling. One of my favourite shows was in Las Vegas when I was 16 or 17. Lance Burton? I went to his show and I was a little kid again. Pretty cool.
It also changes everything about how you see people and the way you interact with people. You learn in the shows who is shy, who is going to help me. I can read people better.
Have you ever had problems covering for mishaps on stage?
Well, in private shows there is always one person in the room who wants to have the attention -– who wants to outsmart the magician. But I always find my way out, and I love that. They’re pretty easy to read. I can tell who the troublemakers are going to be as soon as I walk in. I have never had something go so wrong that the audience could tell.
How does one become a magician?
I did it by learning with another magician, but now… internet?
The performance community- theatre and music- in Vancouver is pretty small. Is there a tight knit group of magicians? Do you go see other peoples’ shows?
Once you get involved in the magic world, you’ll find that magicians are everywhere. There are shows, and magicians always show up at each other’s performances. Shawn Farquar –he’s the champion upon champions in magic- came to Somnium. If you want to be part of the magic community, you really want to be part of the Magic Circle. I’m not a member of the Vancouver one yet, but when I lived in Victoria I was part of it.
So, the Vancouver band “Said the Whale” wrote a song about you. How did that happen?
I met them at a party. I was doing magic and I ended up doing magic for Said the Whale. I was, like: “pick a card”, and I didn’t know who it was. I didn’t even know who Said the Whale was at the time. It was out of nowhere! After the party I went back to Victoria. Then, when I went back to Vancouver I heard they were writing a song about me. I went to the Commodore to listen to the song before it came out and I thought it was fantastic.
It must have been a pretty impressive trick to leave that memory.
It was a pretty standard trick, I think. A card trick and a coin trick. I remember the card one clearly because it was one of the first ones I did. It would be great to think what the card trick was I showed them… I don’t know.
Tell me about Somnium. What did that show mean to you?
Oh, everything. Those kinds of big shows are every magician’s dream. To build your own–- start from one show and continue in a way that makes sense, so it can finish and all fit together. Somnium was a fun show. I wouldn’t say it was my “baby”. Enigma -my show from last year- was my “baby”. But it was a fun show to perform, and a fun show to rehearse.
When you rehearse, is that mainly a one-man job?
Yeah, most of the time I’m on my own, in my room, in front of the mirror. Prior to the show, my living room becomes a stage for magic. I just move all the furniture and rehearse. I show my brothers some stuff, but I can’t tell what an audience will think without a full audience.
Do your brothers help you a lot in the show process?
My older brother runs the show, and my twin brother is backstage with me.
It’s a whole magic family!
Exactly! They love magic and they love my passion for magic, but they’re not interested in learning how it works. They never ask how it works even though they have the eyes of a magician now. When I find something new I show it to them and they give me an honest opinion.
Do you make up most of your own tricks?
All the time. And if I do a trick that someone one has taught me or I already knew, I always try to change it to my own personality and give it it’s own story. When you create your own effect it is the best feeling.
The proceeds of Somnium went to CANWES (Canadian World Education Society). Why that organization?
Well, every show that I’ve done with a big audience, I always like to donate the proceeds. That comes from my family – especially my mom. When I did shows back in Columbia when I was 7 or 8 –
You did shows when you were 7 or 8?!
Some. My first one was for my art teacher. He said “oh! It’s my son’s birthday.” Their son was older than me, and they hired me to do a show for their family. They paid me, but I was 7, so my mum said I should donate that money. It wasn’t much, but I’ve always done that. Last year, Enigma raised money for the B.C Children’s Hospital, but when we took the show to Victoria it was for CANWES. CANWES is special to me because I know Harris, and he’s a big supporter of my magic. That means I know exactly where the money is going.
CANWES raises money to maintain a school in Nepal. Do you do a lot of magic for school aged children?
It really has to be something for kids. It has to be more colourful and different material, as cards are less accessible. Doing magic for kids is the hardest magic that there is and I admire everyone that does magic for kids. To keep their attention is amazing. I don’t do it often, but I like to do it because there are some tricks that you can’t do with adults.
Like the marshmallow trick from Somnium.
Exactly. Adults think that’s cute, but kids really love it. I can’t do cards with children, though, and cards are my favourite magic, but it’s fun.
As far as kids go, magic is pretty inspiring. What would you say to someone young who is interested in magic?
When I went to Vegas and I saw a show, after the show the magician came out. I barely spoke English and my brother was talking to him and he said: if you want to be a magician, don’t go into a store and buy everything. Just get books and DVDs. They are the best thing because they have more material instead of just buying one thing. Once you know how the trick works, you can create it in your own way. I guess the biggest thing in magic is practice, practice, practice. Anybody can become a magician if they really want to.
There are all sorts of magicians. I tend to go for comedy and pretending to mess up, but it’s up to you to have your own personality and make the magic your own.
When you think about magic, stepping into a box and disappearing always comes to mind. Do you do any sort of ‘big magic’?
I learned magic at the School of Magic in Columbia, so I learned all types, and I know how most of them work. I think it’s great, but it’s completely different from what I do. I just need a table – give me a table and I’ll do my show. They also take a lot of space and set up. Escapes – like Houdini escapes – are one of my goals. I think I would love the feeling of danger and the challenge. That’s one of my goals for the next couple years. We’ll see what the future brings…
What’s your favourite bit of magic that you’ve seen?
I have two magicians for that answer, and they’re completely different. One of them, Juan Tamariz is, I would say, the father of magic with cards these days. Just watching him – not even the magic, but his personality – is amazing. The other one, who performs with big illusions, is Lance Burton. He’s from the States and used to perform in Vegas. His show is a beautiful show. Not only is it illusions, but the whole show is connected with a story, so he has theatre as well.
Have you seen any effects that make you want to learn them?
Yeah, all the time. I see someone’s stuff, and sometimes I want to learn because I want to do it myself, or sometimes I want to learn because I want to know how it’s possible.
Would you ever ask a magician how their effect worked?
Usually I’d prefer to figure it out for myself, but sometimes if they are my friends. Some people want to keep their tricks to themselves –- I don’t have that. If a random person from the audience asks me, I say: “sorry, it’s magic”. But if a magician asks me, I’ll tell them everything. There’s this magician –- Berglas –- who has a magic trick and nobody knows how it works. I mean nobody. It’s a fantastic effect. We don’t know how his effect works… In the magician’s world, it’s now a word: “The Berglas Effect”. It’s a beautiful card trick, I have no idea how it works, and I wouldn’t want to know.
That’s the reason people go to magic shows. You buy a ticket so that you can be amazed. Take an hour, forget about the world, walk out and create your own ideas of how it worked. The thing people always jump to is that the volunteers I used were actors, but, of course, I would never do that. Peoples’ imaginations go wild when they’re trying to figure out effects.
Do you have any last things to say?
Well, I’ll show you some card tricks.
Awww, Camilo. Absolutely.
Camilo Dominguez will be taking Somnium back to Columbia this summer, where he hasn’t performed in years. He does private shows on a regular basis, and Somnium will be playing again in Victoria October 3rd and 4th.
To find out more about the Canadian World Education Society, look here.