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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About Anya Shevelyuk

Anya Shevelyuk grew up being in the spotlight. From the very beginning, she was dancing around and putting on mini-shows for her family in Russia. After moving to America, Anya began taking ballet and theatre performance classes and has performed in dozens of shows.

At the age of 18 she moved to Kansas City where she was reintroduced to circus! Anya was so inspired and still longed to be in front of an audience. 22 seemed a bit late, but she began practicing aerial, contortion and hand balancing for hours every day. After a year, her body was doing things she could have never imagined!

During this time Anya received my degree in Exercise Science with an emphasis on Health and Fitness. She currently teaches aerial hoop, flexibility, trapeze and vinyasa yoga as well as performs aerial and contortion. Anya enjoys writing on the side and aspires to motivate and inspire others.

4 Comments

  1. ZbOROVAN on September 17, 2014 at 9:11 am

    What are your career plans when you turn 40?

  2. Anya Shevelyuk on September 17, 2014 at 9:33 am

    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.

  3. Maria Fernanda on May 18, 2020 at 7:02 pm

    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.

    • Bendy Anya on May 28, 2020 at 9:56 pm

      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 bendyanya.com for more information on training guidance :)

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