The Contortion Home Page presents the ...

A through C | D through Le | Li through R | S through Z

acrobatics -- A general term for skills requiring significant body control (balance, strength, and/or flexibility). Commonly seen in circus performances, and perfected by popular troupes from China and Mongolia. Describes some of the slower, more controlled elements in the sport of gymnastics, like the walkover (See: "walkover"). See also, "sports acrobatics".
active stretching (also called: static-active stretching) -- A method of increasing active flexibility in which a pose (such as a high lift of the leg) is assumed and then held using no assistance other than the tension in the muscles opposing the muscles being stretched. This is the type of flexibility that is most useful for movement.

adagio -- A balletic dance with lifts and balances, set to a leisurely pace, performed by a man and one or two women.

adductor muscles -- A pair of muscles on the inside of the thighs which pull the legs toward each other, and are stretched when performing a straddle split.

arabesque -- In ballet, to stand on one foot (full or demi pointe; See "pointe") and raise the other leg (completely straight and turned out from the hip; See "turnout") toward the back while keeping the trunk fully upright.
arabesque penche -- An arabesque in which the back is allowed to drop so that the rear leg may be raised higher.
artistic gymnastics -- An Olympic sport for men and women, performed on apparatus and judged both individually and by team. Men's events are floor exercise, horizontal bar, parallel bars, pommel horse, still rings and vault. Women's events are balance beam, floor exercise, parallel bars and vault.
backbend -- Any pose with an unusual degree of backward bending at the waist and/or spine while standing, kneeling, resting on the floor, or while suspended.

backgrab (also called: backgrabbing) -- A term used in rhythmic gymnastics (See: "rhythmic gymnastics") to describe when a gymnast kicks one leg to the rear while standing, grabs the leg from overhead, and ends up in a needle scale position (See: "needle scale").

ballistic stretching -- The use of momentum or "bouncing" to force a limb beyond its range of motion in order to warm up or increase flexibility. Examples would be leg swings or bouncing in splits. Such stretches can be dangerous and may lead to injury, however if done carefully (with light force and small amplitude of bounce), experienced stretchers may benefit from these exercises.

Bandha Nritya -- Any of several ceremonial dances with backbending acrobatics, performed in temples in Orissa State, India, originally by girls, later by boys.

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.
bridge (also called the "wheel" in yoga) -- A backbend in which the body forms an arch, supported by the hands and feet. Ideally, the arms and legs should be straight and close together. Legs are bent in some variations to produce a different kind of stretch.
chest stand -- Any backbending pose in which the performer's chest is resting on the floor for support.

contortionist (also called: bender; frog; kinker; Limber Jim; posture-maker; posture-master; posture-mistress; rubber man; India rubber man; plastic acrobat; snake-man; snake-woman) -- An acrobat who specializes in bending the body into unusual postures.


This page was co-authored by:
Greg Ullman (
Tige Young (

Return to the Contortion Home Page

Return to the Contortion Photo Library