With her low key delivery, Anna Markova from Russia amazed her young audience by multiplying the small sponge hearts. “This is my heart and I give it to you,” she said in heavily accented voice and glided smoothly into the Valentine’s Day celebrations at Hotel Fortune Pandiyan this weekend.
She hid one small red sponge heart in the palm of each guest on the table and with her abracadabra they kept multiplying and finally she collected all the small hearts and turned them into one large heart. The little girls cheered and clapped loudly and the adults gaped at her trick.
“Girls love diamonds,” she declared next and took out a black ice-cream stick and transferred a small piece of diamond from the ring of one of the girls seated in the audience. And then the diamonds kept multiplying on both sides of the black stick and clearly Anna had everybody under her spell.
“It requires a lot of hard work to do this,” she smiled and moved on to the next table. It was a show that combined blend of magic tricks and dance on stage and the close up acts on every table.
Spontaneous and colourful, Anna added to the wonderment of the audience. The best thing about her performance was that she turned out to be a good entertainer. “I am a dancer first and doing magic is my hobby,” says Anna trained by her uncle Uri Sovitskiy, a magician of four decades in her country.
“It was daunting in the beginning but gradually I started to enjoy doing magic,” she says.
Anna’s acts combine any style of dance and magic, using minimum stage props. She has no glamorous assistants or any other kitsch. In fact, she comes across as an antithesis to modern day slick illusionists.
A woman magician is at an advantage,” she says. And you realise when you watch her dance, you do not pay full attention to her hands! She puts in ample style and glamour into her acts.
Depending on where she is performing, Anna refrains from speaking on the stage. “People may not understand my English accent, so I focus on the content, my steps, my movements of the hands, my facial expressions.”
A trained ballerina and a belly dancer as well, Anna is fond of Indian classical dances too. With her uncle, she runs a Government-sponsored studio -- Chestnee Obmanshike – where they train both young and the old. “We are at the forefront of the intersection between dance and magic and conduct many shows with our pupils,” she says.
“To do magic you have to be an artist first,” she always tells her students. While many join her at a young age for the spectacle of participating in shows, she says majority of them drop out because learning and performing magic requires loads of patience, hard work and practice.
The shows that she hosts become great entertainers and has taken her to Germany, France, UK, Ukraine, Poland, Italy, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain and now she is in Madurai. But this is not her first trip to India. She visited Mumbai 15 years ago as part of an entourage that did a combo of Russian dance-music-food festival in a city hotel.
“I instantly fell in love with everything about India,” says Anna, who kept returning to the country to do group dance sequences in Hindi films. None of those films she has seen but remembers some of the names like Bewafa, Waqt and Golmaal where once can catch a glimpse of her.
But it is Mithun Chakraborty’s “ I am a disco dancer ” that has always had her glued to Bollywood movies. She uses his rock-n-roll image to pull out those umpteen colourful umbrellas, scarves and ribbons of the magician’s hat.
There are not even 100 full time women magicians in the world and her main concern is how to mass market magic in a more entertaining way. Why should women only be assistants to the magician on the stage? she asks.
“I can wear my party gown, put on make-up, wear high heels and dazzle onlookers in ultra-cool style using the same old-fashioned cards, balloons and sponge balls to show my tricks,” she says, and adds, “There has to be a sense of fun but only after you have established some credibility.”
Anna has also performed tricks on stage at Shahrukh Khan’s Dubai show twice.
“Though I am first known as a dancer I love magic enough not to give it up,” she says.
Wherever she has performed, Anna says, people have loved finding out that the magician is a female. “With magic I can create the impossible and watch peoples’ faces light up in wonder. It brings a smile on their faces. And I love entertaining and giving them that happiness,” she says.