When Lucia Carbines says some bodies are more flexible than others you believe her, because this affable, Christchurch-born 20-year-old is the elastic proof.
As "Miss A In The Bubble" -- wearing a stars-and-stripes one-piece, her long hair tucked into a red bob wig -- Carbines performs her balletic contortions at the Empire show in the Spiegeltent to audiences hushed into silent awe.
"Yes," she laughs. "It took a while not to get disheartened by the quiet because other acts get applause. But it's a mesmerising act."
Carbines opens the show contorting herself inside a clear plastic orb suspended above the small stage, and admits it can be like a sauna inside.
"The minute I sweat, the stuff I use on my hands to prevent me from sliding stops working. I was used to trapeze and silks," says the former aerialist, "where it doesn't matter if you get sweaty. But when I started in the sphere I was sliding around. They have to keep the bubble cracked open with the air-conditioning blowing to keep it cool for me."
Not that any of this is evident to Empire audiences who are just struck by her almost unnatural ability to bend her body.
"I'm naturally flexible and my spine is built differently. In the lower thoracic section -- about six or seven vertebrae -- my vertebrae are slightly smaller or further apart, so there's more range of movement. Basically one part of my spine is like a hinge and can bend all the way back."
Miss A in The Bubble: Lucia Carbines.
Although she still has family in Christchurch, her parents moved to the Gold Coast when she was 2 where the climate was better for her father's health. They also adopted a different diet.
"For my father's sake we were brought up gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, sugar-free ..."
Carbines says she was that little girl who wanted to run away and join the circus, and was a daredevil.
"From the age of 3 I started doing ballet until I got bored. I'm quite easily bored but I did that for five years. I had the bone structure and physique for it although I wasn't tall. I had a massive growth spurt at 14. My ballet teacher wanted me to train five days a week but told me I wouldn't be able to climb trees, jump on a trampoline and do anything else. Saying that made me quit."
After a short period in a Steiner school, she was home-schooled, did classes in tap dancing and jazz ballet, joined musical theatre productions and "at 11 found horse vaulting, on a real horse as you'd see in the circus".
She won a national championship at 12 but fractured a vertebrae in her neck when her horse halted abruptly while cantering and she also couldn't see a future in it.
"Your progression relied on the animal. I found that frustrating because I always want to get better and better. There's nowhere to go, you just win medals. There's no career, it's just a sport for fun."
Lucia says she is naturally flexible and that her spine is built differently.
So she joined an aerialist academy at 14 and learned performing on swings and silk ropes: "It was exciting and I could progress on my skill base. Through it I found I was extremely flexible so started training in contortion. What I do now is an aerial contortion routine."
She got the call to join Empire in Melbourne last year when she was 42m in the air training for a motorcycle act on the high wire. The company's contortionist had appendicitis and Carbine had 24 hours to learn the routine.
"When I was an aerialist doing corporate events I was thinking, 'In five years I want to be in a world -class touring circus show' and a year later I was here. It's everything I want it to be, but I'm not going to be doing this forever."
Who: Contortionist Lucia Carbines
Where and when: Empire, at the Spiegeltent, Daldy St, Wynyard Quarter until February 15