Daredevil in the flesh

From catch­ing a bul­let to swal­low­ing nee­dles, ma­gi­cian Aaron Crow cheats death on a nightly ba­sis.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PEOPLE - By WIL­LIAM K. C. KEE star2@ thes­tar.com.my

IT can be said that Aaron Crow was pre­des­tined to be a ma­gi­cian.

At the age of 12, the Bel­gium­born Crow re­ceived a book from his par­ents on the iconic Harry Hou­dini. Flip­ping through the book, he found out that one of Hou­dini’s fa­mous acts in­volved swal­low­ing nee­dles.

Co­in­ci­dence or not, Crow him­self had an early ex­pe­ri­ence with nee­dles; when he was three, he was rushed to a hospital with a nee­dle stuck in his throat.

But it was his en­counter as a five- year- old with a mouse while he was in bed that first in­spired him – it made him think about fears and how peo­ple over­come them.

And now, head­lin­ing Fear­less! Cheat­ing Death Nightly at Re­sorts World Gent­ing, Crow faces all of his fears on­stage on a daily ba­sis.

De­scrib­ing him­self as “a war­rior with a mis­sion”, Crow be­lieves his show fea­tures a pos­i­tive theme. “We can all over­come our fears, we can all be­come stronger. The time is now; a new year, a new you, a fear­less you,” he muses.

“This be­ing the first night, I am quite happy with how things went,” says Crow to the me­dia af­ter de­but­ing Fear­less! on March 18. “Was I ner­vous? Not re­ally. Once the show starts, I get into the zone.”

Ac­cord­ing to Crow, Fear­less! – a fu­sion of magic, sus­pense and risky stunts – was cre­ated just for Gent­ing. “This is the world pre­miere,” en­thuses Crow, who last per­formed in Gent­ing in 2013 as one of the ma­gi­cians in Su­per­stars Of Magic 3. “It ful­fills my ul­ti­mate am­bi­tion: to have my own show, and with an au­di­ence that re­sponds well.”

Based on the de­lighted shrieks and gasps of the 800- strong au­di­ence that night, Crow def­i­nitely won them over. And he does all this with­out ut­ter­ing a sin­gle word.

His word­less stage per­sona has long since be­come his trade­mark. “It sort of fell into place, when I dis­cov­ered the power of si­lence,” ex­plains Crow, 47.

Nick­named ( what else?) The Silent Mentalist, Crow was born Ronny Ver­beke. He dab­bled in mar­tial arts and danc­ing be­fore be­com­ing a ma­gi­cian. “I saw magic as a way of com­bin­ing all these el­e­ments to­gether.”

Asked what his par­ents think of his cho­sen ca­reer, Crow replies: “My dad, who was my big­gest fan, passed away a cou­ple of years ago. My mum reg­u­larly up­dates ( about Crow) on Face­book and some­times she asks, ‘ Are you re­ally do­ing this?’ She’s be­ing a con­cerned par­ent.”

Crow took on his present stage moniker when he en­tered a world­wide magic com­pe­ti­tion. At that time, he had al­ready de­cided on the stage name Aaron. But he needed a last name, to avoid be­ing con­fused with other ma­gi­cians named Aaron.

“For my act, my idea was to have a crow fly out to my hand af­ter I cut a bag of rice. So Crow was fit­ting, and I liked its con­no­ta­tion of death.”

Al­though the bird idea didn’t ma­te­ri­alise – the an­i­mal died be­fore the com­pe­ti­tion – Crow stuck with the name. (“It fit­ted my char­ac­ter.”)

Since then, Crow has won many ac­co­lades. He was ranked first at the World Cham­pi­onships of Magic, the largest com­pe­ti­tion of its kind held ev­ery three years. There, he bat­tled against 150 world renowned acts in front of a crowd of 2,500 peo­ple.

His other achieve­ments in­clude World Cham­pion Men­tal­ism at the 2003 Den Haag XXII World Cham­pi­onships and win­ning the Wiz­ard Tro­phy ( Phe­nom­e­non cat­e­gory) last year.

Crow has ap­peared in nu­mer­ous TV and gala shows in­clud­ing the pop­u­lar Le Plus Grand Cabaret Du Monde. He was re­cently fea­tured in Broad­way New York, Lon­don West End and the iconic Syd­ney Opera House. He also en­joyed millions of hits on YouTube.

But what re­ally made the world sit up and no­tice was Crow’s par- tic­i­pa­tion in Bri­tain’s Got Ta­lent in 2013.

“I saw the show as a huge plat­form. It could ei­ther make you or break you,” re­calls Crow.

He needn’t have wor­ried, as his au­di­ton wowed both the au­di­ence and judges. Even hard- to- please judge Si­mon Cow­ell com­mented: “That’s a great act. I love the idea of watch­ing some­thing where there is a pos­si­bil­ity that some­one could ac­tu­ally die.”

The act that im­pressed Cow­ell came to be Crow’s most pop­u­lar rou­tine. Named Suprav­i­sion, the blind­fold act is now the open­ing seg­ment of Crow’s Gent­ing show­case.

In it, Crow leads three au­di­ence mem­bers on­stage. Each re­ceives a dif­fer­ent item: a pa­per bag ( com­pris­ing rice), a wooden board and a pineap­ple ( to hold on top of the head).

Next, Crow pours hot can­dle wax ( ouch!) over his eyes and cov­ers his face with ban­dages, black tape and foil. He then uses a knife to cut open the bag, nunchucks to break the board and a katana to slice the pineap­ple in two – all with­out in­jur­ing his vol­un­teers.

His other acts in­clude Bow­man ( which in­volves an ap­ple, a ring and a ro­tat­ing plat­form), Heart­beat ( which sees Crow slow­ing then stop­ping his heart­beat al­to­gether) and Nee­dle Act ( which has Crow – ouch again – swal­low­ing three nee­dles).

Crow’s rou­tines are all per­formed in si­lence with the ex­cep­tion of spine- tin­gling mu­sic in the back­ground. Through­out, he is as­sisted by three beau­ti­ful dancers and a comedic em­cee. He also plans to in­cor­po­rate The Fi­nal Bul­let in which he at­tempts to catch a signed bul­let shot from a paintball ma­chine gun.

On what in­spires his acts, Crow replies: “Some­times, it’s an im­age or some­thing I’ve seen in a movie. Ideas keep com­ing and go­ing. I have a notepad next to my bed, and I jot ideas down be­fore sleep­ing.”

What would be Crow’s dream il­lu­sion to per­form? “I want to do an es­cape act, some­thing that has never been seen be­fore.”

Crow’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to con­stantly push him­self is ev­i­dent.

“Off- stage, he’s a very funny guy,” says Fear­less! di­rec­tor Luc Apers, who has worked with Crow since 2003. “But when he’s work­ing, he’s very pas­sion­ate.”

Con­curs Crow: “I am never happy as I be­lieve there’s al­ways room for im­prove­ment. When you’re happy, you stop work­ing.”

Fear­less! Cheat­ing Death Nightly is on un­til May 15 at Gent­ing In­ter­na­tional Show­room. tick­ets are from rM78 to rM118. Visit rw­gent­ing.com for more de­tails.

crow and his trusty bow and ar­row.

head­lin­ing Fear­less! Cheat­ing

Death Nightly at re­sorts World Gent­ing, crow faces all of his fears on­stage on a daily ba­sis.

— Photos: re­sorts World Gent­ing

crow dur­ing

Nee­dle Act which sees him swal­low­ing three nee­dles.

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