A stage show with a twist
Warning: do not try this at home. Then again, the odds are that you are incapable of bending so far back that your head is between your knees while your chest and feet remain on the ground. Unless, that is, you happen to be a professional contortionist like Ganchimeg Oyunchimeg.
Originally from Mongolia, Oyunchimeg is a performer with Cirque Mechanics, a circus set to bring their one-of-a-kind Birdhouse Factory show to Hong Kong this month. Oyunchimeg has performed in more than 3,000 shows across the world over the past decade. She has won four awards from top international circus festivals with the Yagaantsetseg Trio, with whom she performed from 1996 to 1998. She is the single contortionist in Birdhouse Factory, a production that cleverly twists mechanics with art.
Birdhouse Factory was first presented seven years ago, and draws from an array of inspirations such as Charlie Chaplin and American cartoonist Rube Goldberg. It is set during the 1930s in a factory run by a mean boss. The workers decide to rebel and kick their boss out. Now in charge, they agree to produce birdhouses and the factory is transformed into a happier, funnier place.
One unique aspect of Birdhouse Factory is its meshing of machinery and arts. One of Oyunchimeg's acts in the show involves her twisting herself into mind-boggling positions while on a round platform spun by unicyclists. 'It's very challenging, it's very different,' she says about her role.
Oyunchimeg began practising contortionism from the age of three in Mongolia. 'My teacher told me I was naturally flexible,' she says. She continued on that path, loving the act. When she was seven she attended a contortion circus school where she trained for three years, after which she began performing.
In the early stages, it was difficult for her to balance school with her passion, and it became even more demanding when she started performing in addition to training. Nonetheless, she says, 'I loved it so I didn't give up'.
Neither of Oyunchimeg's parents were contortionists but they were very supportive of her and pleased that she had found her profession at an early age.
She says that one of the best things about her job is that 'you travel, you see all these beautiful countries'.
Being a contortionist is no easy task, however - you have to be flexible and learn how to balance on your hands.
A typical workout involves stretching, then doing handstands and push-ups. She trains for about an hour, five times a week.
After she retires from performing, Oyunchimeg thinks that she might teach contortion - a fitting choice - though she has yet to decide where she'll live. In the meantime, she will stay with Cirque Mechanics and continue to add a whole new dimension to the word 'flexible' as she gears up for her performance in Birdhouse Factory, a circus spectacle that definitely stretches the limits.
Cirque Mechanics Birdhouse Factory runs from November 30 to December 11 at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. And you can be part of the fun until November 14. You can enter the Become a Circus Star photo competition for a chance to win tickets, meet the cast, and see your winning photo displayed on the souvenir programme and at the APA.
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