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It is a long journey to becoming a professional children’s performer. This blog is the transformational tale of how Dustin Anderson became the children’s icon, The Purple Pirate.
Shawn Farquhar knows everyone. This man is a motivated dynamo that has given enormous amounts of energy and love to magic. A friend of his and world champion magician, Juliana Chen needed an assistant and he suggested me. I had never heard of her before but I was always looking for work. The thought of working with a world champion that travelled the world was also very interesting. Juliana won FISM (the olympics of magic) with a cards and masks routine. She had toured the world with that act and sometimes needed an assistant for larger events and illusions.
We met and I would fit the criteria that she was looking for. We started rehearsing in the storage space of the infamous strip club, No. 5 Orange. She needed an assistant for a show at the PNE and in Toronto. Limousines would pick us up. What she needed of me was quite simple, dancing and assisting for the shows. The event organisers struggled with what was expected of them and backstage was really stressful. There are many details in putting together a successful performance and an audience member wouldn’t notice them.
Every show was challenging. Then she invited me to come with her to the Shanghai International Magic Festival. What an incredible opportunity. I had never been to China before. I was a little nervous about going there as it was shortly after September 11th, 2001. World security was changing fast. In the end there were no difficulties go to or from China but I had my doubts. China is like a whole different planet. The noise and pollution in Shanghai are insane compared to Vancouver. I noticed that men were horking up phlegm everywhere and it made me think that their lunges were infected from the terrible air quality.
We stayed in a beautiful hotel and I had a massive bed in my room. It looked awesome and I went to do a dive onto it…and bounced off onto the other side of the bed like a Chevy Chase movie. The bed was really hard. Really hard. I never expected it and didn’t sleep very well for the week. The gig was really interesting. I had choreographed one of the pieces for it and got to work with some Chinese national acrobats as my dancers. They didn’t speak English and I had only been able to learn how to say good, beautiful and count 1-10 in Mandarin to get us through. They were fantastic and we had fun despite the language and cultural barrier. Because they were employees of the state we could summon them anytime.
The other magic acts were all world champions and were incredibly inspiring. I got to see Nicholas Knight and Kevin James but My favorite was Junge Junge. This incredible experience introduced me to the European style silent act….a seed was planted.
I really appreciated the effort put forth in detail and narrative. The event itself was in a large stadium of 20 thousand people with a live audience of over 2 million people. I have no idea how the television audience enjoyed the shows but the live audience didn’t seem to care. There was a constant cacophony of cel phones, talking and there might have even been some Yaks wandering through. The sound guy disappeared, the lighting guy was asleep and the poor Canadian stage manager was going out of his mine. Some of the acts were cut short during their shows, some cut altogether. We were told that we weren’t going on and then “We’re going on in 45 seconds!!”. Me and my dancers nailed it despite the sound guy turning off our music half way into the piece and Juliana disappearing and reappearing in the audience to the din of the seemingly uninterested horde. Ain’t show business grande!
Going to China was great. For me the most memorable piece was seeing magic presented in a way that I really appreciated it… and now try to emulate with Message in a Bottle.