There are a great many ways that stage magicians levitate their assistants, their equipment, and themselves. Here we will briefly go over some of the most popular and how they are accomplished.
Assistant rises from the ground supported only by a broom stuck in her armpit. Static electricity in the broom's bristles (generated by a swift, firm sweeping before the show) attracts a metal plate in the assistant's shoes, holding her aloft.
Assistant lies down on a table in a trance and rises into the air. The assistant lies down on what appears to be a table but is really an extended warehouse palette. At the rear of the stage stands a small forklift painted (as is its driver) to match the backdrop, rendering it invisible. When it's time for the woman to rise into the air, the forklift inserts its fork into the palette and, at the magician's command, lifts. When the assistant is in the air, the magician may pass a hoop over her to show that she is unsupported. In reality, the hoop is an oval instead of a circle, and more than large enough to extend around both the floating assistant and forklift. When the time is right, the forklift lowers the woman again and drives off stage, undetected.
Assistant lies on table, is covered by a cloth, and rises into the air. When cloth is pulled away, assistant is gone. This effect is almost identical to the previous effect. The only difference is that when the magician pulls away the cloth, the assistant holds onto the inside of the cloth so that she is pulled off the palette and falls to the ground along with her covering. The orchestra may be ordered to play a loud crescendo here to mask the assistant's large "thump."
Magician flies up from the stage. The magician stands on a pair of large transparent plastic stilts, but the stilts reach through a trap door in the stage floor and are just the right height so that the magician appears to be standing on stage instead of in a hole. When it's time for the effect to begin, the trap door's elevator rises slowly, making the magician appear to rise into the air. Once the elevator reaches the top, the magician may walk around the stage on the invisible stilts, appearing to walk through the air, but being careful about footing lest a grand illusion become an embarrassing face-first dive into the audience.
Magician flies out over audience. A modified rail gun is used to fire the magician over the audience's head. The magician is attached to a large piece of super-strong invisible elastic, which stretches out during the flight and then rebounds to bring the magician back to the stage.
Elephant flies out over audience. This effect was only attempted once, in 1922 at the Orpheum in Manhattan. Magician and amateur physicist The Great Impresso calculated that if an elephant was fired out over the audience by a gigantic, hidden, spring-loaded catapult and kept its legs and trunk in just the right configuration, it would return to the stage like a boomerang. Impresso was, unfortunately, wrong, and coupled with a poor performance the elephant flight left the audience and several local critics flat.