Gymnastics with a twist

David Hope

Why did you decide to do contortion?

My friends said I was really flexible, so I started practicing in my house. I realized I could do something most people can’t do, so I signed up for a class.

What do you do at an average class?

First we stretch, then we do the splits, backbends, joint stretches and toe stretches. That can take up to 20 minutes for contortion class, but less for aerial. Then we split into groups and work on routines.

What kind of events do you do as a contortionist?

My favorites are trapeze and contortion. Other people fit themselves into boxes, do hand balancing, or do flexibility tricks like I do. All of the events work together. Sometimes I do a backbend while someone does a handstand on top of me.

What aerial events do you do?

There’s a regular rope called the Spanish web, a fabric rope called French silk, the lyra which is a suspended hoop and the trapeze. They range from 10-25 feet high.

How is contortion taught in your studio?

Instructors either give demonstrations or step-by-step instructions. Or they just put you where they want you.

What does a typical contortion routine look like?

It begins with a style or apparatus, like a pyramid, then we do some tricks and it ends with another style.

What is your favorite event?

The lyra, because it has more graceful and pretty forms.

How often do you practice contortion?

Class is twice a week, and I stretch every day. You cannot be good unless you are consistent in practice.

Do you plan on continuing your circus career in the future?

People don’t realize that professional circus is crazy competitive. The really big ones, like Cirque du Soleil, get millions of people applying. I can see continuing classes, but not a career.

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