The art of patience


Young girls in Ulaabaatar, Mongolia grow up aspiring to become contortionists. They try to perfect unnatural techniques that started in the 1970s. It pushes their flexibility, mainly with their spine. It takes months to complete a new skill. Teacher Tsetseg Badarch, who performed contortionism in the circus, calls this “the art of patience.”

You can find Tsetseg in the quaint dance studio she rents on the 13th floor of a hotel building, teaching 40 students from ages five to 27. Practices are not always quiet or peaceful or lively. It is common to hear crying and screaming as young girls are pushed to improve.

“It’s all for their own good. Mongolian girls are very flexible. Contortionists have a passion to do it from their early age and they are very talented,” Tsetseg said. “They practice to develop their talent.”

Aside from wiping tears, there is always a sign of respect to be found for students toward Tsetseg. She cares about her students’ success. And there is passion for “the art of patience” in Tsetseg’s studio.

Maddie Washburn 2 - The art of patience
Young contortionists practice stretching routines in a rented studio space in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The contortionists, ranging from ages five to 27, spend hours every day to improve flexibility.