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The Plate Trick

You might call this the contortionist’s antitwister. It requires a beverage glass but leave out the beverage until you get the hang of it. A lighted candle on a tray also makes a good show, or a plate containing food. We describe it using a plate.

Hold out your right hand in front of you, palm up, and rest the plate on it. During what follows keep the plate upright, your hand parallel to the floor. You will be rotating your hand counterclockwise as viewed from above. Here goes. By raising your elbow turn your hand 180° so your fingers point toward you. Continue turning and you will reach 360°, your fingers pointing away again, although you will have to twist your wrist, arm, and shoulder leftwards to do it.

Now keep turning – you will need to raise the plate over your head but keep your palm parallel to the floor. After another 180° (one and a half turns total) you will be able to lower your arm and go a further 180°, to end up, arm as well as plate, right back where you started. The plate will have rotated 720°, two full turns, and you were holding it right-side up all the while.

In the video below Dick Van Dyke, as the character Caractacus Potts in a children’s movie of 1968, performs the plate trick. He uses his left hand instead of the right which makes his movement the mirror image of what we described above. He needs a bit more practice; at one point the plate tilts so much that if there were food on it it would slide off. (I imagine that because children were in the scene the director could film only so many retakes.)

-click to play-