Top 5 Questions People Ask Me as a Contortionist

Anya Shevelyuk - Pyragraph
Photo courtesy of Anya Shevelyuk.

As a performer and contortionist, I get asked many questions about what I do. I wanted to share the top five questions people ask me, along with answers.

1. How did you start in acrobatics?

It’s tough to give just one answer to that question; it was a long road of self-growth that led me to where I am today. My journey began when I started attending dance classes as a child. I remember stretching a lot on my own as a kid and even conducting imaginary classes at home up to my early teen years. I took roll call and demonstrated exercises and stretches, all while explaining what muscles were being used in each exercise and how they would benefit my imaginary students.

I still get the most excitement when I overcome a challenge.

My first face-to-face encounter with aerial dance and contortion was in my early 20s, just as I thought I was ready to retire from ballet. Being part of my childhood dreams, I was already familiar with contortion, however I had no idea aerial arts existed beyond flying trapeze. With my interest piqued, I began to take contortion and aerial classes at a local studio to see where it would lead me. Luckily my skills transferred, because without my prior knowledge of dance, I feel as though it definitely would have been more difficult to learn and understand acrobatics. For the first time ever, I felt as though I was somewhere I belonged.

2. Why do you practice acrobatics?

I practice because it’s so much fun! I’m getting a great workout and I hardly realize it. Practice has never been boring or felt like a chore; I have too much fun spinning around, melding strength with flexibility to create unique poses and shapes, and just being creative. I enjoy sharing my skills and talents with friends and family; however I still get the most excitement when I overcome a challenge.

3. Have you ever been seriously injured from practicing?

No serious injuries here! I have had a few lesser ones caused by other instructors physically pushing me so hard that I strained a few muscles including my ribs, rhomboids, erector spinae and hamstrings. If I had to choose one though, I’d say that my hamstring strain might have been as close to an injury as I’ve encountered. I wound up enduring sciatic nerve pain running down my leg for what seemed to be the longest four months of my life.

4. What motivates you to push forward?

I don’t want to be a prisoner of my body. I know that with time, practice, patience, and no major injuries, my body can achieve anything. I envision my body as being like play dough: pliable, but strong enough to hold unfeasible shapes for extended periods of time. I strive to exemplify the limitless way that I feel inside through my performances and when I achieve my goals, all of the hard work and training becomes well worth it.

5. What do you get out of performing in front of a live audience?

I aspire to inspire—not to mention I like to freak people out a little. Not in the creepy, toothless carney way, but more like, “Wow, if I did that, my spine would never work again!” I enjoy bewildering people and showing them that the human body can do amazing things beyond their wildest imagination.

When I can nail a contortion pose while hanging onto a suspended bar with one hand behind my back, it really shocks people, because most people do not expect me (a petite girl) to be as strong as I am. I love to entertain and really make people think, and when they enjoy my performances, it makes me happy to know I made a lifelong impression.

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  1. Great question! I definitely plan to continue performing. I could not imagine ever stopping in my lifetime. Eventually around the age of 40 I would like to expand my business and open my own studio on the side.

  2. Hi im also a contortionist and i have a question. Does youre lower back hurt when you do a chest stand or a bridge? Its cause mine does and i don´t want to get injured. So is it normal? Can you give me some tips please.

    1. Hey Maria! I definitely do not have pain in my lower back when training. I would suggest checking out the programs I offer for online courses and tutorials on my website for more information on training guidance :)

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