“I like black-it’s the color of fantasy, mystery, and illusion,” says Xiangyu “Leo” Liu, a student in the Master of Public Administration program at IIT Stuart School of Business. “I wear black so people won't be focused on my colorful clothing or shoes onstage; they’ll be focused on what I’m doing. They’ll remember my name-and my magic.”
That’s no hocus-pocus. Liu is a professional close-up magician who often uses his showmanship to help the audience remember another topic about which he is most passionate: protecting the environment.
Thirteen years ago, in his hometown of He Fei, Liu began to teach himself tricks by watching magicians perform on China Central Television. With additional skills gleaned from books he read on close-up magic, Liu joined the student magic club at East China Jiaotong University and soon became the group’s chair, recruiting new magician apprentices, coordinating public performances, and garnering local media attention. An environmental engineering major, Liu thought his magic acts could double for a novel educational opportunity for viewers.
“One time my magic team went into the college community and talked to the residents about the importance of separating their garbage,” recalls Liu. “I changed some leaves from yellow to green, like from winter to spring, and told them if they could protect the environment, they could help to change the world.”
Liu wished to broaden his knowledge and came to the United States in December 2011. A member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM), he also joined the local branch, IBM Harlan Tarbell Ring 43, and within a few months took second place in the 2012 Roy B. Blass Close-Up Contest for a mentalism-“mind-reading”-feat utilizing a deck of playing cards. He also won second place in the 21st Annual International Battle of Magicians in Canton, Ohio, in May.
“Leo is really enthusiastic about magic,” says Jerry Sharff (BE ’62), Ring 43 president. “When he performs, he’s very professional. It’s obvious he was seriously interested in magic while living in China.”
Liu is gaining acclaim for an original card trick he calls the Butterfly Effect, which he is perfecting for the 43rd Annual FFFF Convention, an invitation-only event considered to be the most prestigious close-up magic event in the world. Even though the convention is still many months away, Liu is confident he's on his way to becoming a master magician.
“I believe that in your life, choose one thing and do it the best that you are able,” Liu explains. “So far, over 13 years, I’ve never changed my hobby. I didn’t play computer games or learn the violin. I pursued one thing: magic.”