It’s magic: Apollo Riego to have his own TV show

Apollo and friend make paper float.

By Maricar CP Hampton

At age 4, Apollo Riego’s parents hired a magician to entertain at his birthday party. A year later, he was doing tricks with cups and balls. Today at 25, this popular Coney Island dancing magician is about to host his own TV show aimed at mesmerizing American audiences with his own feats of creating illusion.

“I’m working on a TV show right now with my managers,” he told The FilAm in an interview. The show will feature magic on the streets of New York and inside a studio. “We are still in the midst of shooting some episodes. We are going to aim for a summer release.”


Apollo has been doing it since he was 5. Being an only child who played mostly by himself may have helped him create wonders in his own world, but 20 years hence, he’s still at it, perfecting the art many have come to associate with voodoo and witchcraft.

He is a regular at the Coney Island Circus in Brooklyn and is a favorite performer at children’s parties and FilAm community event – possibly the only Filipino magician in New York. He performed at a couple of Typhoon Sendong fundraisers, and has just returned from Milwaukee where he was a guest entertainer at a ‘bayanihan’ party.

The signs became apparent on his fifth birthday when he was gifted a magic set of cups and balls. With unusual dexterity and sleight of hand, he was able make the balls disappear from a stack of cups.

Classic card trick. Apollo wants to take his magic to the next level.

“Houdini said if a man cannot perform this the right way he is not a true magician,” said Apollo of the classic beginner’s trick. “So I guess it is a good omen that I was able to do it at age 5.” He came to the U.S. with his parents two years later and found New York a wonderful haven for magic toys and games.

The obsession with making things appear and disappear grew into his teen years. Apollo would visit magic supplies stores to acquire new games and practice them. “I was in this magic shop in Queens Boulevard. I was about 14. It was a curious looking store. I went in there to buy some pranks and they started showing magic and I was like ‘wow this is awesome.’ That’s how much I love magic,” he said.

Much of his art is self-taught, but Apollo said he turned to mentors to learn new tricks and further hone his skills. The Filipino part of his act incorporates some dancing and martial arts. Thus the appellation “dancing magician.”

“I am actually a dancer. I also like to choreograph things. I’m a dance instructor at a public school. I also did a lot of martial arts, I did karate,” he said.

Movement and martial arts help to discipline the body on stage, he said. It also provides a measure of showmanship, as audiences love a magician who is funny, graceful, and a great illusionist.

Although he gets some inspiration from the likes of David Blaine, Jeff McBride and David Copperfield — whom he calls the “game changers and innovators” of the art — he has his own style, he said.

One of his acts called Snow Storm, where he produces snow on stage, pays tribute to his Filipino roots. “In every show that I do, I say that I am a Filipino. I’m proud to be Filipino. I say I never see snow in the Philippines but on stage I create my imaginary snow.”

Preparing for a show involves physical conditioning and mental alertness. His bag of tricks needs to be at the show at least a week ahead of time “because if you’re missing one little thing your show is not going have the same flow.” Practice is essential.

Apollo said he is looking to take his magic to the next level. Will it make Filipino politicians disappear and Congress go kaput? Without revealing what his next step is going to be, he said: “I need to change the game a little bit because everything in magic has been done by now. It’s very hard to come up with original material. You just have to change it and make it your own. And that’s what I am going to try to do.”

Apollo said magic paid for his college tuition and books. It is a lot of fun and also financially rewarding, but he cautioned enthusiasts “Don’t worry about the money because eventually that will come. Do as many shows as you can and that’s how you can get good. Put yourself out there and do it over and over again until you can do it without thinking about it.”

In the end, he said Hollywood movies will run out of special effects no matter how great they are, but magic will live on. “It’s a skill not a lot of people can do.”

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