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Contortion acts are highly variable with many incorporating elements of humor, drama, shock, sensuality or a blend of styles. Contortion is often incorporated into other performances such as dance and theater.

Contortion may be incorporated into other types of performances:

An adagio act is an acrobatic dance in which one partner lifts and carries the other partner as she/he performs splits and other flexible poses.

In a rag doll or golliwogg act, one or two assistants bend, shake and carry the contortionist in such a way as to convince the audience that the disguised performer is actually a limp, life-sized doll. The act often ends by stuffing the doll into a small box.

Contortion positions can be performed on a Spanish web, an aerial act consisting of a rope with a hand/foot loop that is spun by someone underneath.

Contortionists might manipulate props during their performance, for instance spinning hula hoops or juggling rings, balancing towers of wine glasses, or playing a musical instrument.

A contortionist may perform alone, may have one or two assistants, or up to four contortionists may perform together as a group. In the past, contortionists were associated almost exclusively with circuses and fairs, but recently they have also found work performing in nightclubs, amusement parks, in magazine advertisements, at trade shows, on television variety shows, in music videos, and as warmup acts or in the background at music concerts. The Ross Sisters were American contortionists most famous for their musical number in the 1940s movie Broadway Rhythm. In addition, contortion photos and digital movie clips are traded by fans on the Internet, and several web sites provide original photos of contortion acts for a monthly fee, or sell videotapes of performances through the mail.

Some loose-jointed people are able to pop a joint out of its socket without pain, thereby making it difficult to determine if a joint is dislocated without medical examination such as an X-ray. However, as long as the joint socket is the right shape, most extreme bends can be achieved without dislocating the joint. Actual dislocations are rarely used during athletic contortion acts since they make the joint more unstable and prone to injury, and a dislocated limb cannot lift itself or support any weight.
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