English professor Dale Salwak, moonlights as a magician.
This professor does his best to connect with his audiences, whether in a classroom or on stage performing a trick.
From the time he was a little boy, Salwak has had a fascination with magic and it came in handy.
“Magic helped me pay my way through school,” Salwak said. “I began reaching out everywhere I could. I performed everywhere from circus clubs to county fairs to fraternity parties, wherever work was available.” It helped him pay for Purdue University as an undergrad and USC as a graduate student.
Magic allows Salwak an “escape” from his normal life.
“It gives me an opportunity to travel to places that I wouldn’t normally have a chance to see and to meet a lot of people.”
“Magic becomes the great leveler,” Salwak said. “You discover that you have something in common; that you share a common love and that is the art of magic. Instantly we have a connection.”
Every year, Salwak performs for a few weeks at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. “When I moved to California in 1969 a friend of mine put me on a show in Long Beach and the owners of the castle were at the show and they invited me to perform for a week,” Salwak said.
Salwak travels to many places performing magic, including North Korea. In 2009, North Korean leader at the time, Kim Jong-Il, wanted a magic show and Salwak, along with four other magicians from all over the world were chosen to perform.
The professor stays in North Korea for a week and performs for an audience of 2,500 and on closed-circuit television that broadcasts to 1.2 million people.
Salwak is preparing for his fourth trip to the controversial country.
“When you arrive you turn over your cell phone and passports and they keep those until you leave,” Salwak said.
“I was told on my first trip to behave as if you’re always being watched, because you are.”
Besides being under a watchful eye, Salwak said that North Korea is different from what we would assume. “The people I’ve met have been very gracious and warm and very eager to learn from our country. I was very well taken care of as a guest of the government.”
Raised in an academic family, Salwak said he always felt comfortable in a classroom. Although he has enjoyed success as a magician, he is a teacher first and foremost.
Since magic and school seem worlds apart unless you are at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it would seem that the two do not connect, but according to Salwak, they do.
“Being on stage is similar to being in front of a classroom. The challenge is finding ways to connect with your audience,” Salwak said.
“During a magic show I connect through an emotional level and in a classroom I connect through an intellectual level.”
Despite language and cultural barriers, Salwak connects with audiences through his magic.
“Magic is a universal art form, just like music. It is understood all over the world. It knows no political barriers, no cultural barriers,” said Salwak.
“Everybody has in them a sense of wonder and fantasy. They delight in the impossible. Magic appeals to the child in all of us.”