How Contortionists Work

Careers in Contortion

A contortionist, going by the name of Yogi Laser, puts on a special street performance for the public in London's Covent Garden.
© Sabiha Mahmoud/Demotix/Corbis

For those who want to take contortion to the next, professional level, there are at least a few options. The good news is that they don't all entail waiting around for the big top carnival caravan to blow through town so you can run off with the yaks woman and the boys who operate the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Contortionists looking to work in circus and related fields may very well want to consider formal training. At Cirque du Soleil, for example, performers are required to have professional circus arts training or to show that they can perform at the professional level if self-taught. You can get professional training at a circus school such as the National Circus School Montreal. In addition to allowing a performer to develop a particular art form, circus arts training programs expose students to a wide range of other disciplines in order to provide a basic level of training across a broad spectrum of performance styles.


It's important to keep in mind that working in a circus-type job isn't all sequined outfits and free elephant rides. It's a lot of work and usually entails long stretches of time away from home. It also probably won't make you rich, unless you turn out to be the long-lost cousin of the Flying Wallendas. Performers can expect to bring in about $300 a week at the entry level, while those who are obtain a feature slot in a show can earn up to $70,000 a year, plus free room and board [source: KidzWorld].

Of course, if you dig folding yourself into bizarre positions, like to travel and don't mind the smell of animals, life under the big top could be the right thing for you. Sure beats working in an office.

Author's Note: How Contortionists Work

It is my personal and humble opinion that the human body has its limits and they should be respected. Sure, I applaud folks who push the boundaries of human achievement, whether that's through a record-breaking performance or an astonishing feat of the mind. The thing is, I'm pretty sure there's a reason I can't put my feet behind my head: It's not really necessary.

Related Articles


  • "History of Aerialism, Acrobats & Cirque Performance." April 28, 2010 (Feb. 22, 2015)
  • Jacob, Pearly. "Mongolia: Contortionists Aim for UNESCO Recognition." Eurasianet. Aug 23, 2013 (Feb, 22, 2015)
  • Kanade, Shrinivis. "Contortion Backbend Training: Learn How to do a Backbend." Buzzle. Sept. 23, 2011 (Feb. 22, 2015)
  • KidzWorld. "Becoming a Circus Performer." (Feb. 22, 2015)
  • Leach, Robin. "Cirque exec discusses reintroduced Epic Battle Scene in 'Ka' at MGM Grand." Las Vegas Sun. Dec. 7, 2014 (Feb. 22, 2015)
  • Fit & Bendy Modern Contortion. "Stretching for Adults Part I: A Modern Approach to Contortion Training." Nov. 19, 2014 (Feb. 22, 2015)
  • National Circus Montreal. "Circus Arts Disciplines." (Feb. 22, 2015)
  • PBS. "History of the Circus." (Feb. 22, 2015)
  • Simply Circus. "Chapter 2- Stretches." (Feb. 22, 2015)
  • Simply Circus. "Introduction to practicing contortion." (Feb. 22, 2015)
  • Vegas Chatter. "KA's Battle Scene Returns A Year And A Half After Tragic Accident." Dec. 4, 2014 (Feb. 22, 2015)