This research study proposes an introduction to the performance art form contortion by examining its theories and functions throughout the 20th and 21st century. It considers themes such as the appropriation of contortionism during the golden age of Hollywood and discusses definition issues between contortionism and other disciplines with body flexibility, such as gymnastics and yoga. By examining the genesis of contortionism in ancient China, it aims to explore parallels between the origins of Chinese contortionism and the establishment of Chinese acrobatics. It offers points of discussion regarding the political use of contortionism in socialist China and the development and institutionalisation of acrobatic troupes since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Lastly, it draws upon a Foucauldian perspective by examining the parallels between the Western training of soldiers during the 17th and 18th century, and methods of traditional Chinese acrobatic training in the 21st century. This research study aims to position the art of contortionism in scholarly literature, to open up this valuable field for future discussion and research, and as contribution to a better understanding of this art form for current and future contortion practitioners.