Interview with LukePerformers
Photography by Jon Applegate
What is your name and how old are you?
Hi, my name is ‘bendy’ Luke and I’m 10 years old.
Where did you grow up? What is your background with contortion?
I live quite close to London, in a county called Essex, and have been practicing contortion now for around 2 ½ years. Alongside this, I attend classes focusing on Aerial Circus skills, Acro Gymnastics as well as Street Dance.
What got you interested in Contortion to begin with?
Thanks to YouTube, we came across Sofie Dossi’s first audition on America’s Got Talent. Her flexibility intrigued me so much, I tried to copy some of her poses and we discovered that I found it really easy to put my legs behind my head. The surprised reactions from friends and family encouraged me to experiment with crazier poses and so a new passion was born. I was only 5 at the time. Reflecting back, none of us really understood what contortion was.
How long have you been performing?
My first solo, choreographed by my coach Pixie Le Knot, was performed at the London Contortionist Show in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit. During the various lockdowns we continued to train over Zoom. When the restrictions relaxed, I performed various dance routines as well as my solo contortion act at the Footworkz Dance School show. Last October, I did a Cirque du Soleil-inspired contortion act during Pixie Le Knot's ‘The Contortionist Show’ where countless talented artists were featured.
What have been your biggest challenges as a performer?
My biggest challenge was finding someone who would understand and be able to coach me. My flexibility wasn’t encouraged at the gymnastics clubs I joined as the primary focus was put on strength. I was unable to participate in the competitions that had my interest since they were gender specific to girls. This was a confusing time for me. Then my mum found Pixie Le Knot on Instagram via Robyn Betteridge’s profile and a whole new world that we didn’t know existed opened up. The day before my 8th birthday, I had my first lesson with her and the troupe; I honestly felt like I found my tribe!
What or which performance is the most memorable to you?
Aleksei Goloborodko’s performance in Cirque du Soleil's Luzia has made a huge impression on me and I have been lucky to have seen him perform twice. He truly is the most flexible man in the world and a great role model with a wealth of experience behind him. He has been incredibly kind too by meeting me briefly after his performance in the Royal Albert Hall and writing me messages of encouragement.
How would you describe your performance style?
I like to tell a story though my performance but I also really enjoy audience participation. I might come across a little shy in ‘real life’, yet nothing makes me happier than performing on stage. It brings me great pleasure to transform into a character and see the responses of others who are watching.
Are you performing with a show or solo currently?
At this moment in time, I do not perform professionally but I hope to do so when I am older! Until then, I will continue to dream and train hard!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Flexibility in the back and shoulders must be carefully managed. Conditioning and strength development are critical in this discipline. A balance between flexibility and strength must be found, and this is no simple task!
What advice would you give young people trying to get into performing?
To follow your ambitions, find a good coach and network, support others, seize the opportunities that feel right and to embrace being different. Also, it’s important to not compare yourself to others but to focus on your own development as well as your own interests, as we are all unique!
Do you have a coach currently?
Yes, I have been training with Pixie Le Knot for 2 ½ years now.
What does your daily/weekly training schedule look like?
I train with Pixie twice a week on average, with one lesson focused on handstands and the other on contortion. When I join a group at her studio, we focus on acro gymnastics which is a lot of fun! It helps us work together as a team and establish trust.
What does your typical day of training look like?
During the week, I go to school and participate in other activities such as scouting and swimming, but even when I’m relaxing in front of the TV or editing videos for my Charli D’Amelio TikTok fanpage, you will notice me stretching.
What is a trick that you’re trying to learn at the moment? How is it going?
I have set a goal for myself to improve my confidence, core strength and stability on the canes and this can only be achieved through lots of practice. There are many beautiful hand balancing shapes I hope to achieve on the canes.
What or who is your biggest inspiration?
I really look up to Aleksei Goloborodko, Emerald Gordon Wulf, Sofie Dossi and Anna McNulty. Also, my coach Pixie Le Knot is a great inspiration as she always pushes the boundaries of her own development too, trying new things all the time plus she has been so supportive of my training for which I’m incredibly grateful. Lastly, all my contortion friends inspire and encourage me to keep improving.
What is contortion to you?
Contortion to me is creating fun and yet extreme poses coupled with beautiful fluid transitions showcasing not only flexibility but also strength.
Follow Luke on Instagram