Stats and Stories
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Ess Hödlmoser

Program and component
Explore and Create, Professional Development for Artists

Toronto, Ontario

Field of practice
Circus Arts

Grant amount

Fiscal year

Contortionist Deepens and Enriches Their Practice 

A contortionist practises supporting themselves by their mouth as their instructor looks on.
Toronto-based circus artist Ess Hödlmoser perfects the “zubnik” technique with trainer Mr. Usukhuu in Mongolia.

With support from a Canada Council grant, contortionist Ess Hödlmoser travelled to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to deepen their knowledge of this highly specialized art form.

Studying advanced Mongolian contortion

An award-winning performance artist, Hödlmoser has a unique style and athleticism that has helped them bring disturbing, contorted characters to life in a variety of TV and film productions. In 2019, they travelled from Toronto to Mongolia to pursue specialized, advanced training in contortion under two respected coaches. They focussed on technical skills in foot archery as well as “zubnik”—where the artist takes a backbend position and suspends their entire body weight through their mouth while biting on a piece of leather mounted to a short steel pole.

Exploring a rich cultural history

Hödlmoser also had the opportunity to explore the rich history of contortion and its roots in folk dance at important local sites, exploring spiritualism, animism, history, cultural values, social standards and more. This expanded Hödlmoser’s knowledge of Mongolian contortion and its role in Mongolian culture, deepening their understanding of how it manifests in traditional versus contemporary settings and ultimately enhancing their practice.


Tagged As Stats and Stories Circus Arts Explore and Create Professional Development for Artists Ontario