Contortion may be the most mysterious art in the circus. Contortionists are often viewed as having some sort of genetic, or physiological gift. Most people assume you have to start practicing as a child to build such skills.
Well, it will certainly help to start young, and being born with higher than average flexibility can help, but no one is born a contortionist.
No, this artful skill is inevitably reduced to and born of one thing – consistent practice.
Regardless of their genetics, rest assured that any contortion you see in a Phare production, or any on Earth for that matter, are the product of hours of daily practice and took years to produce the results you see.
Now, note the word consistent. We all have routines… Maybe you have coffee every morning, or cereal… maybe you exercise several times a week, pray, or check the news… whatever it is, the chances are you occasionally miss a day. Circus artists training in contortion do as well, only when they’re learning the skill, this dramatically delays their goal of greater flexibility. Depending on which coach you ask, some will tell you that missing ONE day of flexibility training can take as long as a WEEK to make up for! Fortunately for the rest of us, missing a cup of coffee one morning doesn’t mean we need to drink 7 the next day to get the same result.
The art at first tends to seem like a practice of simple yet extreme flexibility. However, it also has a great deal to do with strength. While you’ll often see contortionists move into intense bends, little thought is usually given to how much strength the posture takes. Give it a quick try, try leaning backwards as far as you can go… maybe put your back to the wall and press your hands over your shoulders – then, try inching your feet forward and walking your hands downward along the surface of the wall towards your feet. It won’t take long for most of us to realize how much leg and core engagement is required to balance.
Handstands are another requisite skill in a contortionist’s movement vocabulary that requires substantial strength. Sure, with a bendy back, any person flexible enough can kick up onto their hands and flop their feet over onto the ground. But the strength and balance of a trained contortionist gives them the control to stop their movement in the handstand position and demonstrate their flexibility simultaneously… and sometimes they can even do additional tricks that require a whole other set of skills – like marksmanship!
While we won’t promise contortion in every Phare show, it’s a common part of many of our shows and students from the PPS circus school are always making sure they keep up with their daily practice. Come catch a show – every night at 8:00pm. Check TripAdvisor and you’ll see how worth it is!