The Origin of Contortion and Extreme Flexibility
One of the oldest movement art forms, contortion dates back to ancient civilization, ranging from paintings to sculptures depicting people in extremely flexible poses.
The first known contortion act was recorded in a Roman circus-not necessarily because it was viewed as a new form of innovative entertainment, but as a means to financially save money from the most common revelry at the time: killing people. It is rumored that the earliest known contortionist was a beggar picked up in the streets by the producers for the ancient circuses, hired on the spot, and put to work. It is also widely believed that this man was a yogi, pushing his body to the limits, which gained the interest of the producers as well as the people attending the circus.
Contortionism gained popularity fairly quickly, and began spreading to more coliseums and circuses.
Move to the 1940's: an American duo, "The Ross Sisters" became famous for a performance they did in the movie, "Broadway Rhythm." Since then, contortion is now seen all over the place, from nightclub performances to music videos.
In todays world, contortion is often married with various forms of circus arts, or practiced alone. Extreme flexibility is trained and displayed, pushing the body to unbelievable limits. When incorporated into dance or performance art, it creates astounding beauty and jaw-dropping poses, in addition to a silent grace.
There are two main schools of training for contortionism, Russian and Mongolian. Both hold significant cultural importance to each country and taught in specific ways, but with the end goal the same; to become more flexible.
Contortion has a wide range of different parts of the body that are trained. Front bending, back bending, splits, and oversplits are the most practiced or focused training that aerial and circus schools focus on, taught in a safe and effective manner.