At Westfield Valley Fair Mall’s Feb. 20 Lunar New Year celebration, master magician Dan Chan emerged on stage in a crimson red mask and a dark costume in the style of an ancient Chinese warrior’s uniform. While performing a dance with elegant fan waving and martial arts movements, Chan’s mask would repeatedly and swiftly switch to new masks of different colors. Such is the magic of Bian Lian, a sophisticated sleight-of hand that translates to “change of face” in Chinese.
“I want to share with the audiences something that is culturally rich, something rarely seen in the United States,” says Chan, a native of San Francisco. “Bian Lian is the 300 year-old Chinese art of changing faces where the performer magically shows different masks. Each of the faces represents a different emotion and each time the face has changed, the performer is to show a different posture and movement.”
During the show, Chan asked a couple to sign their names on separate cards that later resurfaced as one card. In another trick, Chan’s wife Kat, a balloon artist, ventured inside a gigantic balloon filled with cards to retrieve a signed card another audience member selected out of a deck.
“There are trick cards you can buy at trick stores and audiences know that,” Chan says. “So when I have an audience member sign a card, and that card shows up in a different location, they’d know there is no other card like the one they’d signed in the world.”
Paria Amini, audience member and Santa Clara resident, describes her experience assisting Chan in a trick with the sole prop of a square-shaped hanger.
“The magician could get the hanger on my body, on my arms, without making any breaks or openings in the hanger,” Amini says. “My favorite part was the beginning of the show, with the magician’s dance and his mask changing. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
A show highlights also included Chan’s 8 year-old son, James the Juggler, smoothly juggling several balls. After the show, Chan’s 6 year-old daughter, Amazing Grace, showed a math trick.
Chan served five years in the United States Coast Guard Reserve as a petty officer third class. Previously, he worked for PayPal and was an instructor of several sports. Performing magic has given Chan the chance to watch his young fans grow up.
“Being a magician also allows me to see adults become kids again because the emotional impact of someone seeing what they believe is impossible drives me and inspires me to do better,” Chan says.
Chan frequently performs what he refers to as “magic for intelligent audiences” at restaurant dinner shows. Visit bayareadinnershow.com for further details and goldstar.com for discounted show tickets.