In pursuit of his craft, Robbins has ended up incorporating principles from such disparate fields as aikido, sales, and Latin ballroom dancing…
Robbins demonstrated his method on me. “When I shake someone’s hand, I apply the lightest pressure on their wrist with my index and middle fingers and lead them across my body to my left,” he said, showing me. “The cross-body lead is actually a move from salsa dancing. I’m finding out what kind of a partner they’re going to be, and I know that if they follow my lead I can do whatever I want with them.
– Green, Adam. “A Pickpocket’s Tale: The spectacular thefts of Apollo Robbins” in The New Yorker. Online.
(Emphasis mine.) One other side note: if you are reading The New Yorker piece for the first time, don’t miss the associated video which has been less heavily linked to online.
Salsa dancing, latin ballroom dancing. Hmm… What other magician had a history in ballroom dancing? Richardi, Jr. (Aldo Izquierdo Colosi).
According to Richiardi’s Magicpedia entry, “After his father’s death in the United States, he saved up enough money to move back home to Argentina (where most of his father’s illusion were stored). He attended military school and studied singing and dancing.” Some additional references showing Richiardi’s dance background:
He has 25 years of theatrical experience since he has been a singer and dancer in his father’s magic show since he was six years old…
Most of the show is in pantomime. Richiardi and his assistants run out on the stage and they dance throughout the show in the manner of a modern interpretive ballet. I must stress that his dancing and positions are at all times suited to the music and has an easy grace although it is completely masculine and in keeping with his characterization of a charming young “miracle-worker.” As an entertainer, Richiardi, Jr. is very much like Sammy Davis, Jr., and as a dancer he is very much like Gene Kelley whom we see in motion pictures. Actually, Richiardi, Jr. presents his magic on the stage as it might be presented in an Hollywood musical film.
– Furst, Arnold. “Richairdi Jr:, A Review of his show at the Royal Theatre, Portsmouth, England” in Genii. Vol 20, No. 9 / May 1956. Pp. 354-357. AskAlexander (Login required).
An interview in which we learn that he was also an “amateur bullfighter”!
P.: You did something that very few magicians ever do: you took lessons in singing and dancing. Renowned critic John Simon, whose word is almost gospel, said; “you bring theatre to magic”. What made you do that in that time . . . it’s some time ago and you were so young!?
R.. Well, because I thought that this was the time to bring something new to magic and I could sing, I knew .. . if I tried. I could dance too, because I was an amateur bullfighter and that would give me movement and the style. So I wanted to do magic different to my grandfather and to my father. Well, since I am not a hypnotist, I am not a ventriloquist, so what could I do new in magic? Music, dancing, singing and girls I did, at that time a very beautiful magic show
– Interview with Peter Pit at the Magic Castle on November 7, 1981. Published as an obituary in “Richiardi – The Man – His Magic” in Genii. Vol. 49, No. 4 / October 1985. Pp. 245-250. AskAlexander (Login required).
And Jeff McBride, explaining Richiardi’s influence on his magic:
When I was growing up, watching magic acts in the 70s, basically magicians didn’t move. There wasn’t a lot of dance, other than Richiardi who put that kind of Latin fire in his movement and a lot of these adagio and kind of flamenco Latin poses in his show.
– Jeff McBride, interviewed by Eugene Burger in “The Showmanship Interviews” Genii. Vol 74, No. 5 / May 2011, Pp. 60-63. AskAlexander (login required).
I feel Richiardi’s broom levitation, in particular, displays the influence of his roots in Latin dance. Have a look at this (unfortunately very low quality) clip of the Richiardi levitation (at beginning and end).