Alexis Arts casts spell over businesses with Academy of Magic and Science in Cambridge

PUBLISHED: 08:06 12 June 2017 | UPDATED: 09:53 12 June 2017

Danilo Audiello (Alexis Arts) and Antonia Symeonidou of the Academy of Magic and Science. Picture: Keith Heppell

Danilo Audiello (Alexis Arts) and Antonia Symeonidou of the Academy of Magic and Science. Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

Entrepreneurs and magicians both think outside the box, and now you can too.

Danilo Audiello (Alexis Arts) and Antonia Symeonidou of the Academy of Magic and Science. Picture: Keith HeppellDanilo Audiello (Alexis Arts) and Antonia Symeonidou of the Academy of Magic and Science. Picture: Keith Heppell

Alexis Arts is a phenomenon. A former Cambridge PhD student, he holds six Guinness World Records for various astonishing feats including the fastest escape from handcuffs and a straitjacket.

He’s an illusionist and dancer too, but his latest trick is his most startling yet: To combine magic with science into a business course.

For the last 18 months, Alexis has been part of the Accelerate Cambridge entrepreneurship programme at Cambridge Judge Business School, and he’s now opened the Academy of Magic & Science, an interdisciplinary fusion offering lectures, workshops and conferences aimed at the business community, working with biochemist Dr Antonia Symeonidou.

Their first event takes place in Cambridge on July 8-9, entitled ‘Recoding Perception through Magic’ and offering “a two-way programme that builds knowledge and skills across key scientific disciplines and concepts of illusion”.

Alexis Arts with Stephen FryAlexis Arts with Stephen Fry

Alexis – real name Dr Danilo Audiello – points out that an entrepreneur and a magician have something in common – the ability to go beyond conventional wisdom.

“For both, the way you think has to be a bit different from what already exists,” he says.

The academy will help participants “build a skill set they can use, such as magic tricks or stories”, including improved communication and public speaking skills, plus new teaching techniques for use in their career.

Topics include the ‘psychology of misdirection, behavioural sciences and decision-making, the deception of perception and mimicking nature’s magic’.

Alexis Arts at the University of Cambridge LibraryAlexis Arts at the University of Cambridge Library

“We’ve created the content, the syllabus and the partnership with FISM – the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques, the equivalent of the International Olympics Committee for magic – and now the courses, and this is the result,” says Alexis. “We are here at Accelerate Cambridge and now we’ve got to let people know what can be achieved with this organisation.”

Antonia, the academy’s director, says understanding the magician’s toolkit of misdirection, and understanding of bias and perception can help in many fields.

“If you have the skills magicians have to create miracles, you can push against the wall of knowledge. Being a lawyer or judge it helps to recognise if someone is lying in the courtroom. Being an engineer, it helps if you can make the impossible,” she points out.

It does no harm that Stephen Fry is on board with the new curriculum. Alexis shows a video in which he asks Fry what magic means for him.

Alexis Arts at the University of Cambridge LibraryAlexis Arts at the University of Cambridge Library

“Magic is not transgressing scientific laws, but confirming them,” the great orator says. “All technology appears to be magic when it first appears – like flight – but it can all be explained. The academy is important to me as it confirms the fundamental belief in the congruence of magic and science.”

Also involved are Gabriella Cristiani, who won an Oscar for her editing work in The Last Emperor. Cristiani will contribute a recorded lecture “looking at how the first movie directors and stars were all magicians” – as will Nobel Prize-winning economist Benny Dembitzer.

“What we do is highlight the ‘wow’ factor of magic and the ‘aha’ factor of science – and we show the ‘wow’ to better explain what the science is,” says Alexis, proving that his magic skills extend beyond tricks and illusions to words too.

:: Cambridge Independent Business readers can get a 10 per cent discount to the inaugural Academy of Magic & Science event. Go to the event booking website and use the code ‘INDEMAGIC’.

Alexis Arts at Magdalene CollegeAlexis Arts at Magdalene College

More at www.cambridgemagic.com.

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