Contortionist’s new twist: from birth to foot archery

Liz Hobday |

Shannen Michaela is back performing her foot archery trick after having a baby.
Shannen Michaela is back performing her foot archery trick after having a baby.

Returning to work after having a baby usually requires flexibility but contortionist Shannen Michaela is an extreme case.

The Gold Coast native has a one-year-old son and, as he learns to walk, Michaela has returned to circus training up to four hours a day.

It is a mix of yoga, acrobatics as well as standing on her hands to shoot arrows using her feet with the bow gripped between her toes.

“There’s a lot of repetition to make sure that I get the accurate shot,” she told AAP.

“It’s so incredible to be able to do what I love again, even throughout motherhood.”

Shannen Michaela
Gold Coast native Shannen Michaela is the Guiness world record holder for foot archery. (HANDOUT/CIRQUE BON BON)

Michaela is preparing for Cirque Bon Bon’s 2024 national tour, following its run of sold-out performances at the Brisbane Festival in 2023.

She will also perform some “creepy” shapeshifting while balancing on a table, and she’s still confirming whether her act will include flaming arrows too.

The 24-year-old is the Guinness world record holder for foot archery, after she hit a bullseye from a distance of 18.3 metres at a session filmed on a Gold Coast tennis court in 2022.

With the previous record at 13 metres, there’s no sign any other foot archery specialists (there are about 10 worldwide) have come close to exceeding her milestone.

Michaela grew up doing gymnastics and circus and started training in the unusual discipline at the age of 16 after her trainer showed her a video of foot archery skills.

She began practising in her backyard and when she could shoot two or three metres, she worked on gradually hitting the bullseye from a greater distance.

Michaela often questioned why she was training so hard to master such a peculiar skill, which is why her world record holds such importance.

“If I’m going to spend years dedicating myself to this trick that only has a use in some very specific scenarios, then at least I can say I’m the best in the world at it,” she said.

“I think it’s important to do things that you love, even though they may be seemingly ridiculous at times.”

Michaela has spent years travelling the world as a street performer and cabaret artist.

But Cirque Bon Bon, produced by another Queenslander in ex-Cirque Du Soleil creative director Ash Jacks, is a favourite.

As for running away to join the circus, she says the lifestyle is not for everyone, but those who feel circus is their heart’s desire should go for it.

“I’m a huge advocate for following the unconventional path in life and not waiting until later to live it,” she said.

Cirque Bon Bon is at the Athenaeum Theatre Melbourne in July, Darwin and Canberra in August, and Brisbane in September.