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Contortion Glossary

Backbend/Backfold - Any pose with an unusual degree of backward bending at the waist and/or any portion of spine while standing, kneeling, resting on the floor, or while suspended.

Box act (also called: body packing; enterology; packanatomicalization) - Circus act in which a contortionist squeezes his/her body into a small box or transparent container.

Chest stand - Any backbending pose in which the performer's chest is resting on the floor for support.

Dislocate - 1. [verb] To injure a joint by temporarily forcing the bone out of its normal socket. 2. [noun] In men's gymnastics, a rotating of the shoulders when performing a backwards turn on the still rings. Many skills in acrobatics appear to involve dislocating a joint, when they actually do not.

Durvasa's pose or crane pose - Named for the mythological Indian sage, Durvasa, who supposedly assumed this pose during his years of penance: to stand on one foot with the other leg lifted in front and placed behind the neck or shoulders.

Elbow stand - Any inverted pose in which the performer uses only the forearms on the floor for support.

Frontbend - Any pose that features an unusual degree of frontward bending of the waist and/or spine, either with the legs together or parted.

Front split (also called: Stride split) - A split in which one leg is extended frontward and the other leg is extended backward, both at right angles to the trunk. Ideally, the hips are square facing to the front, while both legs are turned out from the hips.

Hairpin - A pose in which one kneels down, sits on top of the feet, and bends backwards until the top of the head comes into contact with the tailbone; it may also done with a starting position on hands and knees.

Headseat - An extreme backbend in which the top of the performer's head touches the buttocks; usually in a handstand or chest stand.

Human knot (also called: Yogic sleep; Head-foot position; Leg-head position) - A frontward bend with both ankles placed behind the neck.

Leg shouldering - A standing split in which the leg touches the shoulder. Can be done to the front, side, or rear.

Marinelli bend - [From contortionist and international theatrical agent H. B. Marinelli (1864-1924)] A head-seat with the legs extended, performed while supported only by a mouth grip at the top of a short post.

Needle scale - A front split while standing on the forward foot, with the torso bent downward with the hands touching the floor, while the rear leg is extended vertically toward the ceiling.

Oversplit (also called: Hypersplit) - Any split in which the angle formed by the legs measures greater than 180 degrees. It can be done to the front with either or both legs elevated, or in a straddle split with one or both legs elevated.

Passive stretching (also called: Static-passive stretching; assisted relaxed stretching) - 1. A static stretch in which an external force (such as the floor or another person) holds the performer in the static position. 2. The practice of having a relaxed limb moved beyond its normal range of motion with the assistance of a partner. In "active stretching", in contrast, the limb is extended to its maximum range using only the muscles of that limb.

Pike - To be bend forward at the waist with the legs and trunk kept straight.

Pointe - In classical ballet, when a dancer uses special shoes (called pointe shoes or toe shoes) to dance en pointe (on their toes). The arch of the top of the foot is at its maximum when the dancer "pushes over", causing the heel of the foot to be almost directly over the toes. Difficult and often painful to learn, both men and women may benefit from studying pointe technique, however, most performance opportunities are for women only. Children do not begin to study pointe until they have years of experience and sufficient ankle strength, as well as being old enough to ensure that their bones are strong enough.

Rag doll act (also called: Golliwogg act) - Circus act in which a contortionist, dressed in a loose-fitting clown costume, gives the appearance of being a limp, life-sized doll, as one or two assistants bend, roll, carry and pose the "doll" and then stuff him/her into a small box.

Rhythmic gymnastics (also called: Rhythmic sportive gymnastics (RSG); rhythmics) - Olympic sport for one woman (or 5 women in group competition) consisting of a balletic floor exercise which demonstrates leaps, turns, balance and flexibility while moving and tossing hand-held apparatus: a ball, a rope, a hoop, two clubs, or a ribbon. Men's rhythmic gymnastics currently exists in Japan, and is gaining worldwide acceptance.

Rope act (also called: Spanish web) - Circus act in which an acrobat (usually female) performs exercises high above the floor while holding on to a long, vertically suspended rope, or hanging from a loop in the rope.

Scale - In acrobatics, when the leg is raised toward the back and may be held with one hand while standing.

Split (also called: the splits) - Any pose in which the legs are extended in opposite directions such that the angle of the legs is 180 degrees.

Straddle split (also called: side split; box split; Chinese split; cut split) - A split in which the legs are extended to the left and right, until a 180 degree angle between the legs is reached.

Tortoise position (also called: pancake) - A seated forward bend with the chest against the floor between the legs; the outstretched arms are also against the floor and underneath the knees.

Triple fold - A chest stand (See: "chest stand") in which the knees come all the way over to touch the floor, and the shins lie flat on the floor.

Twisting split - An exercise in which the performer changes from a split with the left leg forward, to a straddle split, and then to a split with the right leg forward, by rotating the legs, and without using the hands for support.
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