By Ben Wheeler
MEET the super-flexible woman whose thousands of hours training, including being stood on by her coach whilst doing the splits, has helped her realise her dream of becoming a contortionist.
Incredible images show Maria Pucciarelli, 19, from New York City bending and twisting into a series of mind-boggling positions that would be completely impossible for the average Joe.
Sports were always a huge part of Maria’s life growing up before becoming fascinated by contortion in her teens.
Despite being extremely inflexible in her youth, Maria is now as bendy as they come thanks to her coach’s unique methods, which have lead her to featuring in art galleries, tv shows and even a clothing line.
“I first decided I wanted to start doing contortion when I was 14 years old,” Maria recalled.
“I realised I needed to gain more flexibility from gymnastics and needed to take stretching more seriously if I was to realise my dream.
“I was watching stretching videos on YouTube and came across the contortion solo from Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria.
“I was absolutely fascinated by it and it inspired me to want to be a contortionist as well, so I started self-training when I was 14 and then started working with my first coach at age 15.”
Maria went on to explain what she had to go through to perfect the astounding moves she can pull off today.
“I actually used to be extremely inflexible and always had the worst flexibility out of my teammates when I played sports,” she said.
“It wasn’t until I wanted to do contortion that I started taking stretching seriously, that, mixed with my coach’s slightly insane stretching methods, such as standing on me while I’m in middle splits, saw me start to gain flexibility.
“I’d say I’ve put thousands of hours into contortion and training is a huge part of my life, I even started to be home-schooled in my third year of high school to focus more heavily on training.
“All the training definitely helps me stay, I do daily cardio, conditioning and stretching to make sure I continue to advance.
“Thanks to my training, one of the hardest contortion moves I can do is called the triple fold, it’s a very deep back bending skill and it can be difficult to breathe in. I perform the skill in most of my acts and it gets a great reaction from the audience.”
Maria also discussed the unusual ways her unique talent can come in handy in day-to-day life as well as the opportunities contortion has presented to her.
“I don’t have too many opportunities to contort during everyday tasks but considering most of my friends can’t breathe and tie their shoe laces at the same time I’m grateful to how my flexibility makes life a little easier,” she said.
“I’m also a hide and seek champion, you have no idea how many places I’ve jammed myself in to in order to win!
“Contortion has given me the most amazing opportunities, I’ve been able to travel all around the United States to perform, model and train.
“The images I’ve shot with various photographers have been featured in galleries all over the world, even as far away as South Korea and a clothing line.
“One of my favourite experiences I’ve had through contortion was getting to film various TV shows, including the Steve Harvey Show and loved seeing all the different sets and equipment.”
Finally, Maria spoke about the reaction she gets from members of the public and gave advice to anyone else who wants to be just as flexible as her.
“The reaction I get is usually a mixture of amazement and shock,” she said.
“Some people think my acts are amazing and find contortion beautiful, but others are quite shocked and disgusted by what I can do with my body. Hearing the reactions of shocked audience members is always really funny to me.
“To anyone wanting to take up contortion, don’t let anyone tell you you’re too old, too weak or too inflexible.
“As long as you have the passion and drive for contortion you can achieve anything, contortion can be extremely frustrating at times but getting on stage and performing is one of the most rewarding experiences I can think of.”