Contortion is a performance art in which performers, contortionists, showcase their skills of extreme physical flexibility. Contortion acts often accompany acrobatics, circus acts, street performers, Contortion acts are typically performed in front of a live audience. An act will showcase one or more artists performing a set of moves or poses, often to music. The physical flexibility required to perform such acts greatly exceeds that of the general population and it is the dramatic feats of seemingly inhuman flexibility that captivate audiences. In some countries, such as Russia and Mongolia, contortion holds special cultural significance, many factors affect the flexibility of performers including age, genetics, stature, and adherence to rigorous physical training routines. Most contortionists are generally categorized as frontbenders or backbenders, depending on the direction in which their spine is most flexible, relatively few performers are equally adept at both. Backbending skills such as touching ones head to feet, or all the way to the buttocks. 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 oversplits may be included in frontbending or backbending acts. An oversplit may be performed while the feet are supported by two chairs or by two assistants, enterology is the practice of squeezing ones body into a small, knee-high box or other contained space which initially appears to audiences as being too small to contain the performer. Dislocations of the shoulders or hip joints are sometimes performed as a novelty act by itself. One example is lifting the arm to the side until it passes behind the head, a medical publication from 2008 suggests that long-term damage to the spine is common in long-term practitioners. A study of five practitioners using Magnetic Resonance Imaging by Peoples et al documented limbus vertebrae, intervertebral disc bulges, three of the five practitioners also reported back pain. Contortion acts are highly variable with many incorporating elements of humor, drama, shock, Contortion is often incorporated into other performances such as dance and theater. The act often ends by stuffing the doll into a small box, Contortion positions can be performed on a Spanish web, an aerial act consisting of a rope with a hand/foot loop that is spun by someone underneath. Contortionists might manipulate props during their performance, for instance spinning hula hoops or juggling rings, balancing towers of wine glasses, a contortionist may perform alone, may have one or two assistants, or up to four contortionists may perform together as a group. The Ross Sisters were American contortionists most famous for their number in the 1940s movie Broadway Rhythm. Some loose-jointed people are able to pop a joint out of its socket without pain, however, as long as the joint socket is the right shape, most extreme bends can be achieved without dislocating the joint. Actual dislocations are rarely used during athletic contortion acts since they make the joint more unstable and prone to injury, box act - Circus act in which a contortionist squeezes his/her body into a small box or transparent container
Contortionist, posed in studio, ca. 1880.
Hussein Yoga performing a combination of a cheststand and dislocation