Contortion is an unusual form of physical display which involves the dramatic bending and flexing of the human body. Contortion is often part of acrobatics and circus acts. In general, contortionists have unusual natural flexibility, which is then enhanced through gymnastic training.
Most contortionists are categorized as either frontbenders or backbenders, depending on the direction in which their spine is more flexible. Relatively few performers are equally adept at bending both frontwards and backwards.
Some of the skills performed by contortionists include:
Frontbending skills such as folding forward at the waist with the legs straight, or placing one or both legs behind the neck or shoulders with the knees bent (called a human knot). They may also pass their body through a ring or barrel while in a forward fold.
Backbending skills such as touching one’s head to one’s feet, or all the way to the buttocks (called a head-seat), while standing, lying on the floor, or in a handstand. A Marinelli bend is a backbend while supported only by a grip at the top of a short post that is held in the mouth.
Splits and over splits (a split of more than 180 degrees) may be included in front bending or back bending acts. An over split may be performed while the feet are supported by two chairs or by two assistants.
Enterology is the practice of squeezing one’s body into a small, knee-high box or other container which appears to be much too small for a person to fit in.
Dislocations of the shoulders or hip joints are sometimes performed as a short novelty act by itself. One example is lifting the arm to the side until it passes behind the head and lies across the top of the shoulders.
Like other visual arts, a contortion performance can convey any of several emotions, depending on the choreography and costumes that are chosen, as well as the personality and acting skills of the performer. Performers might choose a style that is beautiful, athletic, weird, shocking, sensual, erotic or humorous, and each has fans that prefer that particular style, sometimes to the exclusion of other styles.
The contortionist Alexey Goloborodko