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A first lesson in magic for Ridge seniors

“You live in Brooklyn. For the right price, anyone can disappear. I don’t need to teach you that one.”

Thus began the first magic lesson at Bay Ridge Center for Older Adults, taught by Gary Dreifus in partnership with Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide, or SPARC. He assured the 20 or so senior citizens in the room that in a few months, he’ll have turned them all into magicians.

Dreifus, who has been teaching magic for over 20 years, wasted no time in getting down to business and outlining the basics, using a large chalkboard and conversational tone to ease his audience into learning.

“I’m sorry,” said a woman near the front of the room when Dreifus asked the audience to perform the first trick he taught, “but my reflexes aren’t very good anymore. I don’t think I can do this.” However, by the end of the lesson, with Dreifus’ encouragement, every audience member was performing not one, but two different tricks.

Everyone in the room quickly got into the spirit of the class.

Joe N., who has been coming to the center for over 20 years, commented that, compared to the other programs offered, this one is especially interesting. “I like things that are different day to day. He’s the second magician we’ve had come in, but he’s great. He’s a real magician.”

“This was so fun! I loved it and I will definitely come back next week!” said Susan C., before hurrying over to thank the magician, who had promised to bring each participant their own real magicians’ supplies at next week’s lesson.

“I enjoy everything at the center, from video games to the little trips we take,” stated Lorraine L. with a smile, “but this was really great.”

Dreifus began his career as an audiologist at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens and later worked for the New York City Department of Health, heading the program that ran hearing tests in public schools.

It was through these jobs that Dreifus realized that magic could be used as a tool to educate and entertain, and he implemented this knowledge when he taught educators how to identify hearing problems in young children. Because of this, he has a patient and easygoing nature, joking and laughing with his audience as he instructs them.

When the Department of Health cut funding for the audiology program, magic became his career focus and he began working with the Brooklyn Arts Council to get grant money and bring his program to senior centers across the city.

Dreifus still performs as well as teaches his magic, but he has a special fondness for teaching at senior centers. “I don’t only want to teach at centers with a lot of city funding. I want to use grants to teach at the ones with less funding, too. This will be me someday after I retire, and I know I will want to learn and be entertained, so I want to teach and entertain them,” he explained.

The magic class at the Bay Ridge Center for Older Adults will host its magic show in May. The show will be performed in the center, which is located at 411 Ovington Avenue.

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