In this latest edition of Bwog’s recurring feature highlighting students’ hidden talents, Alliance of Magicians Bureau Chief Mark Hay sat down with a performer that would rather not be labeled a magician.

Throughout our little chat I keep trying to label BK (a stage name), CC ’13, a magician, but every time I offer up the title, he squirms a bit and wriggles away. BK calls himself a “performer” or an “entertainer,” and most of his shows are a display of mainly his proficiency in several forms of dance, theater and piano. They just happen to feature the occasional and unexpected floating cane or suspended fireball. He may be a general “performer,” but, as he admits, “I… buy a lot of butane.”

Indeed, magic is the key feature in most of BK’s acts. That little, inexplicable and entrancing factor, as he explains, is what gets people to sit through and enjoy a two-hour show. But to call it a “magic show,” he says with just a hint of derision, would kill all of the magic. Over the years BK has developed a rather nuanced philosophy of what magic truly is – one that, as per his strained and searching answers to my questions, appears to be ever evolving. However, at least he seems to be certain on some aspects:

Magic is personal. It is an extraordinarily intimate and stylized form of communication that may convey feelings and thoughts that cannot come through in words. BK was born with this skill (…or at least that’s the stage story. He later tells me he picked up an interest while working with special effects artists backstage on other performances). But for magic to maintain this ethereal and strange communicative power, it must be unique to its handler and should be tailored to each individual; magic isn’t just some cheap and expected parlor trick. Removing the surprise and the mystery robs BK’s art of its voice and makes it cheap.

I ask BK to show me one of his own tricks, and he transforms four one-dollar bills into hundred dollar bills before my eyes. The longer version involves slowly increasing the value of the bills until he hits hundreds, but we took a shortcut. This particular trick is not out of the blue – the basic concept is an old one, but the handling is all his own, and it’s taken him almost four years to perfect his mechanics and presentation. He invents most of his tricks, borrowing only a few from his mentor of almost seven years, and usually they only take him six months to perfect. I am honored, I suppose, to see one of the more complex and evolved feats BK has to offer.

Six months is quite a bit of time to develop a quick trick, but BK says it is worth it. This is what he loves to do and it is what he sees himself doing with the rest of his life – communicating onstage through magic and other mediums. Already he performs regularly: with his mentor, at children’s hospitals, and (usually his only paying gig) as an entertainer for geriatric billionaires who want to feel young again. Although he says the joy of performance is his greatest motivator, it’s still a bit surreal that just one gig – a night’s work – can earn BK over one thousand dollars.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that he has the incentives, financial and emotional, to practice, practice, practice. Between and in classes, in his dorm, when talking to friends, he’s running through tricks in his head, non-stop. Just like how you or I would casually think of sex, stress or food, BK practices magic.

With connections to most of the big-shots and magic clubs in the city and already able to earn a meager living doing what he loves, why does BK bother with all this college nonsense? As it turns out, he wants to pursue a degree in mathematics to gain a new perspective on his own talents and to develop a wholly unique style – some sort of Ivy magic the likes of which the world has never seen. To endure Columbia for love of one’s craft; it must be love. For BK, it’s a little more. It must be magic.