Traditionally, lightness refers to something of little weight and density.
In Italo Calvino’s ‘Six Memos for the Next Millennium’ (1996) a book based on a series of lectures revealing the values of literature which Calvino felt were important for the coming millennium. Calvino dedicates a whole memo to lightness. Revealing its quality as a device to gain a different perspective from the stale seriousness which weighs writing down. A tool that moves ideas forward, to escape the rigours of the everyday world by becoming light.
To experience the physical affects of lightness we should turn towards one of the early forms of illusion, levitation. The illusion was first described by Ed Balducci in 1974, to be performed by standing on the front of one foot, while raising the one foot and the visible part of the other foot, blocking the view of the front of the supporting foot with the other foot and rear part of the supporting foot. The performer stands at an angle facing away from the spectators. The performer appears to levitate a few inches above the ground.
If we are to interpret lightness, we cannot ignore its inextricable link with weight (seriousness). It is fundamental when becoming light that the world can be experienced from a different angle. To remove oneself from seriousness to access other thoughts and experiences. I wish to explore this through a ‘how-to’ guide of Balducci’s technique. Experiencing levitation as a witness or performer we seek lightness as a form of momentary escape but as the illusion reveals even within levitation we are still bound to the weight of being grounded.
- Check your surroundings. You need to make sure that nothing in your area is going to expose the illusion of your levitation. Make sure there are no reflective surfaces that would show the side of your body you are hiding from the audience. Stand at a distance. The closer your audience is to you, the harder it will be to hide your back foot. Position yourself in a 45-degree angle to your audience, so they can only see one side of your feet.
- Place your feet 2 centimetres (0.79 in) apart. Giving yourself a bit of space between your feet might help you with balancing. Make sure to line up your toes and heels. You don’t want one foot more forward than the other.
- Slightly shift your weight to the foot hidden from the audience. You will be balancing on this leg, but do so without being obvious. As you shift your weight feel free to explain that you are about to perform a levitation. By talking to your audience, you can divert attention to your face and off of your feet.
- Slowly begin raising your arms. Don’t lift your foot just yet. Raising your arms will give you an upward motion that will make it look like you are about to float. By raising your arms slowly before lifting your feet, you draw focus up and away from your feet. You also start building suspense.
- Raise your audience facing foot. Slowly begin to raise the foot a little off the ground to begin floating. You can start to raise it and then put it back down for more suspense, or if you need to adjust your balance.
- Raise your front foot about 1 inch (25 mm) off the ground. If you raise it too high you will expose your back foot and ruin the illusion. As you raise your foot, angle the edge of it facing the audience down slightly to keep a cover over your back foot.
- Keep the levitation short. Balancing on such a small part of your foot may cause you to wobble and the longer you hold the levitation, the more the illusion will fade.
- This trick has a greater effect when it’s over quickly.