NEW ORLEANS — When he’s not appearing on the big screen or touring the burlesque circuit, Michael Dardant, also known as “Magic Mike,” is likely guessing which of the 52 cards you removed from his deck.

Dardant, a 1994 New Iberia Senior High graduate, was born in France but moved with his family to New Iberia when he was 5 years old. That’s also about the time he got his first magician’s kit, a gift from Santa Claus, recalled Dardant, 35.

After learning all the tricks in the kit, and staging several magic shows for kids in his neighborhood, Dardant said his old magic kit was put away and forgotten.

At age 13, Dardant said he rediscovered the world of magic. He began honing his skills, mostly at birthday parties, and then by joining the International Brotherhood of Magicians, he said.

That eventually paid off after Dardant took his act to New Orleans, meeting renowned New Orleans magician Jon Racherbaumer.

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Dardant said he was contacted by another New Orleans celebrity, Trixie Minx, who wanted “Magic Mike” to join her world-traveling burlesque troupe, “Fleur-de-Tease.”

Minx, a 31-year-old ballet dancer from Miami who moved to New Orleans 11 years ago, recalled wanting to add something extra to the troupe’s cast about eight years ago, and was pointed to Magic Mike. She said he was repeatedly described as the Big Easy’s most-skilled magician.

“It’s a strange story. I reached out to him. We met in a bar and low and behold he joined,” Minx said. “He makes us more than just beautiful girls dancing. The combination of his magic and comedy really brings out the Vaudeville-era in our show and really rounds us out.”

Dardant, winning competitions like Canada’s National Magic Convention and the International Brotherhood of Magician’s Convention in Norfolk, Va., to name a few, said joining the burlesque troupe brought new forms of challenges to his career.

“We do a different show every month with a different theme,” said Dardant, “and that’s the challenge, coming up with a new routine every month.”

For the troupe’s performances, Dardant said he takes the stage in between all the dancing and acrobatics of the Fleur-de-Tease ladies, wowing the crowds with his mixture of magic and comedy. Dardant said his act has further evolved in recent years, after he took from his New Iberia roots and created the persona of a swamp tour guide with a Cajun accent.

“The audience cracks up when I go into the Cajun accent, and others can’t really duplicate it,” he said.

When not performing live, Dardant also takes his skills to the big screen, appearing on the New Orleans-based television drama “Treme,” as well as a number of critically acclaimed independent films, including “Trailer Park Jesus,” “Statue” and “Trust Bob,” he said.

Being what he described as a “Mike of all trades,” Dardant said he stays a busy man, but does still find time for the occasional trip home to New Iberia for visits with his family.

For upcoming performance information, visit Magic Mike’s website at www.michaeldardant.com.

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