What is a contortionist?

An introduction to contortionists

two performers in face frame
Two performers from circus smirkus perform on stage

A contortionist is a person that practices Contortion. Contortionists are able to effortlessly complete many poses, tricks and skills in a performance or an act. These acts can take place on a stage or as a roaming set piece. Contortionist performances, like many other circus disciplines take huge amounts of skill. Their skills take buckets of dedication and perseverance to hone their performances. On stage, contortion performers captivate their audiences with their technical execution but also with the emotion they put into their acts. In other mediums such as television and film, contortionists can bring super human (or not so human) characters to life.

Contortionist performance

Historically contortionists performed in circuses, however in more recent times contortion has expanded into many other arenas. With the modern renaissance of circus it has moved more into the mainstream and with it, so have contortionists. We can now see a whole range of contortionists in cinema, television as well as in music videos and even at live events.

Contortionist acts can range from around two to ten minutes depending on the content of the act. The performer then transitions into poses, pauses in a complete pose and then transitions to the next. Acts are usually performed to music, in the case of a stage show the act would be choreographed to the music, where as in ambient performances at events the the music wouldn’t influence the sequence or the rhythm of the performance. Performers also adopt a character or performer for their act. These characters help the performer tell the story of their performance and help bring their act to life.

Contortion acts can incorporate many other elements too. A large number of performers like to incorporate hand balance with many utilising canes. Others perform on top of high tables that add an extra dimension to their performance as they can execute tricks over the table’s surface.

Does this sound like something you’d love to do? Get started with your own flexibility training today.