Q&A With American Contortionist Eva Lou Rhinelander

I had the pleasure of asking the incredible American contortionist Eva Lou Rhinelander some questions about her journey as a contortionist. Eva is an amazing contortionist and when she takes to the stage and performs and showcases her astounding skills, she leaves the audience in awe and mesmerized by what the human body can do. Eva is an incredible performer and has an incredible future ahead, she’s one of only a handful of American contortionists who can do the Marinelli Bend . Below are her responses.

Bio: Eva Lou Rhinelander is an 11th grader from Boston, MA. She has toured for 6 summers in the Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour where she performs hula hooping, contortion, handstands, wire & clowning. During the school year Eva competes in dance and is a Level 9 rhythmic gymnast

Instagram: @evalouhoops

Q1: How long have you done contortion for?

I started learning contortion around 2016, when I first began to take handbalance lessons. I was 11 years old. 

Q2: How did you start contortion?

I started rhythmic gymnastics when I was 10, so I was already learning moves that are considered contortion. But it wasn’t until I auditioned for the 2016 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour that I learned the circus term contortion. I couldn’t hold a handstand, and I didn’t know anything about contortion. After that audition, I enrolled in handbalance lessons, so between the strength and stretching, I was able to start doing contortion tricks. 

Q3: What inspired you to start doing contortion?

I was already a naturally flexible kid, so after my first year at Circus Smirkus, the coaches and directors asked me to start learning contortion so I could be in the act the next year. It was a natural fit!

Here’s a link to Eva’s first contortion act (the Octopus Act in the 2017 Circus Smirkus show): (Eva is in the middle in the starting position as the head of the Octopus)

Q4: How often do you train and for how long?

I train an average of 4 hours a day, 6 days a week, in a variety of skills that all help with contortion. These include rhythmic gymnastics, dance, acro, handstands and contortion. 

Q5: What is your favorite contortion move/trick?

My favorite contortion move is contortion pushup. I had to work a really long time to be able to muscle up, so whenever I do a contortion pushup, it is a reminder of the payoff. 

Here is a video of Eva doing contortion pushup and mouthpiece in an act:

Q6: What has been your best contortion experience?

My best contortion experience was learning from so many amazing coaches during the “quarantine” from the spring of 2020 through summer 2021. I started training online from my house, and improved so much. 

Here is a video of a hoop contortion act Eva developed while learning at home:

Q7: What is your ultimate contortion goal/dream?

My ultimate contortion goal is to have solid one arms on both sides, and be able to move around into different positions in one arm. I love balancing handstands so much and want to master them.  

Q8: Best advice you’d give someone interested in contortion?

My best advice is to just keep practicing. You won’t be able to reach your goals unless you work for them, so keep training! And do 100 push-ups everyday!

Q9: Best advice you’ve received?

The best advice I have learned/received over the years of training contortion and handstands is to train on both sides. It is so important to have equal strength and flexibility on both right and left shoulders, splits, wrists, legs, etc. because it is really easy to fall into bad habits which limits the tricks you can do, and you can also injure yourself in the long run. 

Q10: Biggest contortion inspiration?

It is really hard for me to choose just one contortion inspiration. There are so many amazing people who do contortion, as well as so many approaches and techniques to the tricks. I am inspired by the variety of learning that contortion provides. 

Q11: What does a usual day of training look like?

A usual day of training consists of me going to school in the morning, coming home from school and doing homework for maybe an hour, and then rushing off to either gymnastics or dance until 9 p.m.. On days where I train contortion, I stay home and take online classes. 

Q12: What is your preparation for a performance like?

Preparation for a performance consists of planning the theme of the act for the particular show or event, then choosing music, and shifting my act to fit it. I have a couple baseline acts that are always ready to go, so I’m always happy to be in a show! 

Q13: What or who is your biggest motivator in contortion?

My biggest motivator in contortion is the feeling of getting stronger and achieving new tricks. I love to keep improving, and being challenged all the time is why I love contortion so much. There’s always something new to learn.

Q14: What goes through your head when you’re doing a contortion performance?

I actually try my best not to think while I perform contortion. I can get really easily distracted or psych myself out easily, so as long as I am just doing what I know and remembering my act, everything will go accordingly. 

Q15: Do you get nervous? How do you overcome your nerves?

I do get nervous before shows, but more in an excited sort of way. The best way that I can calm myself is to think through my act and practice my hardest tricks before I go on. 

Q16: Describe yourself in 5 words

Motivated, Perfectionist, Sleepy, Hungry, and Sassy

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