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.
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.
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.