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Archive for the ‘Dance’ Category

Creative Contortions: Talent in Western PA

The city of Pittsburgh and nearby areas have long been known for cultivating people with great skills and talent. The list of athletes, performers and artists is extensive and growing all the time.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting two of these young ladies, along with a mentor who has helped mold their remarkable skills. And interestingly enough, they sort of fit into all of the categories I mentioned earlier.

Ashley King (21) and Alexa Siska (15) recently wowed audiences on the reboot of “The Gong Show” with their contortion performance. The girls are from the Dance Extensions Performing Arts Center in Canonsburg, a facility run by owner and director Betsy Shuttleworth and co-owner Dawn Churney.

The girls aired as the first performance of the evening and scored one of the highest scores of the night. Watch it here:

 

As you probably expect, a lot of hard work goes into these routines and contortionist training in general. The show was taped in May 2017 and the girls only had about one month before the show to practice the act after the show contacted Betsy when coming across an account on Instagram (@bendytrainer). And while due to unexpected circumstances, the girls has only paired up a few months earlier, Ashley has been working on her craft for about 14 years while Alexa has been in training for 4 years. Ashley is also one of the instructors at the studio.

heart of pittsburgh

The girls flew out to LA for on a Monday, rehearsed the next day, recorded their segment on Wednesday and returned to Western PA on Thursday. The recording session took 12 hours on the Sony Studios lot. While Ashley had been to the International Contortionist Convention in Las Vegas a few years back, this was certainly the most unique experience in Alexa’s dance career so far.

Both girls attend school online, Alexa is in high school while Ashley is working on a business degree. As that it was during the school year when the performance took place, the show had a social worker and a professional approach to making sure younger students would stay focused on their schooling.

Contortion in Western PA

According to Betsy, creative opportunities for dancers and contortion artists are growing in the region partly due to resources like GigSalad and the Global Sisterhood of Empowering Women. That’s wonderful news because both girls have aspirations of owning their own studios some day in the Western PA area.

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A Chat With Hula Hoop Superstar Katie Sunshine

After her recent appearance on the new version of “The Gong Show” I reached out to this talented young lady who is widely recognized as one of the major talents in hooping today.

Q: Where you always a performer or did hooping start this for you?

A: I wasn’t always a performer, in fact quite the opposite! I was painfully shy in middle school on up into my high school years, I was just one of those kids that took a long time to emerge from my shell. I never did gymnastics or dance or cheerleading or any kind of performance, really. Hooping has definitely done wonders for my self-confidence and my ability to be comfortable in front of a crowd.

Q: Before getting involved with hooping what did you want to do as a career?

A: I have always had a passion for art so from a young age I knew I wanted to be involved in the arts somehow. I taught elementary art for several years before leaving to hula hoop full-time. Now I work for a non-profit art museum in Little Rock managing the gift shop. I get work with local artists and buy their work for the store which I absolutely love.

Katie Sunshine of The Gong Show

Q: How much does it help with fitness and health? 

A: As far as I’m concerned, hooping is the best exercise there is! Hula hooping great for toning core muscles and burning calories. Plus, it doesn’t feel like a workout so you’re more likely to stick with it longer and not burn out. Lastly, hooping is a great stress reliever. It’s easy to forget how important managing stress is to leading a healthy lifestyle and because hooping is fun and challenging at the same time, it’s great a great way to let off some steam.

Q: What type of songs are your favorite for doing your performance?

A: I’m a music lover and I can hoop to just about anything! I prefer songs with a faster beat because it’s more inspiring to get the hoop moving faster.

Q: You are a business woman too. What has that been like for you?

A: The business aspect of my hooping has been a huge learning experience. I’ve learned the importance of networking and nurturing the contacts you make as a business owner. The hula hoop community is a growing one and there are lots of opportunities to work with other performers if you’re willing and able to put yourself in the position to meet new people.

Katie Sunshine hoops on stairs

Q: Can you give me an example of a unique or interesting experience you had during one of your shows?

A: Every show I do is a unique experience for sure but I definitely have some moments that stand out. One of my first ever performances for a live audience happened in Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park. I was going to hula hoop with the Philly Phanatic on top of the Phillies dugout during the 7th inning stretch. The weather had been misting rain all evening and right before I walked out to perform, one of the employees of the park said “the top of the dugout gets really slippery in the rain, that’s not a problem, right?” But before I could even answer I had to go out! I was terrified the entire performance of slipping and falling off the dugout! Fortunately I didn’t fall, the Phanatic was a great hooping partner, and it was the biggest adrenaline rush I had from a performance!

Q: What other creative pursuits are you interested in or considering giving a try?

A: I have so many creative interests I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day! As I mentioned above I love art and painting has been a passion of mine even before hula hooping. I love to paint, although I don’t always get the time to, and I also love ceramics. I’m still a beginner with a pottery wheel but I’m definitely hooked! I also play the drums and want to learn how to do tricks on roller skates

Q: You make your own hoops – how did you get started doing this?

A: I started making my own hoops to try to save money on all the hoops I was buying! Designing hoop tape patterns and colors is definitely another creative outlet for me.

Q: How did you start working with flames and where you scared of getting injured?

A: My first experience with fire hooping came about when a hoop-friend of mine brought her fire hoop to a gathering. I had seen fire hoops on Youtube and was interested to try. I had hooped for long enough at that point that I was very comfortable with my hooping ability so I felt I was ready to go for it. I was absolutely terrified of getting burned! However, with some encouragement and a tutorial from my friend I felt confident enough to try. And I get more and more comfortable hooping with fire every time I do it. Of course, safety is always first priority and I always make sure to take all the necessary precautions.

Katie Sunshine

Check out Katie’s official website at www.katiesunshinehoops.com

Beautifully artistic sessions from Dancing With The Stars

As readers of this blog will likely realize, I have long been a fan of the show Dancing With The Stars on the television network ABC.

Being an artist, I can of course appreciate the artistry and creativity involved in the choreography and the dance itself as well as the music that inspires the motion.

That being the case, I want to share a few videos of some truly wonderful performances featured on the current edition of this highly entertaining show.

The artistic beauty of dance

I am a long time fan of the show Dancing With The Stars.

And while the series is known at times for having some silly and less than elegant elements, it has also had it’s share of truly amazing performances. Some of these have inspired visually, musically and even emotionally. Here are a few I saw last night that I simply felt compelled to share. The first is newly crowned Olympic Ice Dancing champion Meryl Davis and her notoriously suave partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy. It was dedicated to the journey to the gold medal she and her ice dancing partner Charlie White had been on for more than 17 years. This second video is of  Paralympic snowboarding star Amy Purdy and her choreographically gifted partner Derek Hough. This was dedicated to her father who played an incredible role in her recovery from an illness that cost the athlete her legs. Sit back, relax and take in another example of how art can inspire us all.

Artistic modern jazz dance on Dancing With The Stars

Dance as art

As we can probably all agree, dancing can be fun and exercise but also is undoubtedly an art of its own. Last night’s episode of the ABC hit series “Dancing With The Stars” proved that once again. In particular, I was really drawn in by the modern jazz performance of country music artist Kellie Pickler and her professional dance partner Derek Hough.

This particular dance routine featured some incredible choreography,  some really stunning props and so much more. In my opinion, it even came across as a really intriguing mix of a Sci-Fi sort of quality and something that might remind you of the classic dance film “Flash Dance.” 

Check it out below for yourself.

 

Harlem Shakes from around the globe

If you haven’t heard of the Harlem Shake, you soon will. It’s a craze that’s taking over the Internet as the latest viral dance sensation. For a lighter hearted post, I decided to include some samples below for you enternatinment.

Disclaimer – Not all videos may be suitable for younger viewers.

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