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Teen contortionist joins clowns, acrobats at MAT's circus

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Kevin Carpenter can do things with his body that would send most people to the E.R.

"I knew it from the beginning, because I could take my feet and roll, bending backwards," he says. "You actually have to be born to do it. I have more cartilage between my vertebrae."

Carpenter, who lives in Colorado Springs, basically is a self-taught contortionist. He's been learning gymnastics since he was 5 years old, but has learned much of what he knows by studying photos of positions on the Internet. Currently, he's working on his one-handed handstand.

"Some of them are pretty easy, but a lot of the handstand ones take a while," he says. "I have to examine the picture and try to imitate it."

Performers of all ages, including stilt dancers, clowns, unicyclists and jugglers, will be at The Incredible Circus MAT this weekend. The 17-year-old Carpenter has performed acrobatics and contortions at The Incredible Circus MAT for three years and plans on applying to Cirque du Soleil after he graduates from Doherty High School.

Even if a full-fledged career doesn't pan out, Carpenter still can reap some benefits of his special talents.

"My doctor said that he hasn't exactly confirmed this that if you were to get into a really, really bad accident, you might not become as injured, because your spine acts as a spring and won't cause you as severe whiplash," he says.

"Most of the time, I don't wake up with lower back pain, like a lot of people do."

CAPSULE

The Incredible Circus MAT

Manitou Art Theater

515 Manitou Ave.

Friday, May 5, 7 p.m.;

Saturday, May 6, 11 a.m. and

2 p.m.; Sunday, May 7, 2 p.m.

Tickets: $8; Call 685-4729 or visit themat.org for more information.

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