A teacher in the country's most diverse census tract made it her mission this year to celebrate and engage the school's students in a language they all shared.

"Music is an international language," said Anna Bondarenko, a preschool special education teacher at Anchorage's Mountain View Elementary School. "Everyone understands it. It doesn't matter what country you're from."

The result was a joyful and noisy talent show Thursday afternoon, the school's first in years.

Onstage, 7-year-old twins with matching outfits and side ponytails whipped and nae-naed. A nervous 4-year-old wearing a tie and suspenders played "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" on the piano. A girl in kindergarten sang a song a cappella. She wrote the lyrics herself.

Parents held their cellphones in the air to record the acts. Students in the crowd clapped in rhythm to the songs. Younger siblings crawled around the floor.

Here's a look at some of the performers.

Keira Hall, 9, gets a smooch from her godmother, Princess Parson. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Keira Hall is a 9-year-old songwriter in third grade. She gets her inspiration from nature. It took her only one night to pen her latest song, "Singing Like An Angel."

"I was thinking about the talent show and I thought, 'Well, why don't I just write a song,' " she said.

She likes to practice singing at night, when everyone in her house is sleeping. "I get kind of nervous when other people are around," she said.


On Thursday, she overcame those nerves.

In a green dress that sparkled like a disco ball under the stage lights, Hall performed her original song as a few of her classmates played drums and others shook maracas.

"Sing like the seas, fall in my dreams" she sang. "Go up and come down it's like I'm in between."

Twins Izabella, left, and Annabella Dabney. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Seven-year-old twins Izzy and Anna Dabney said people sometimes confuse them. They look exactly alike. So, on the sleeves of their T-shirts, they had written "1" and "2." Izzy was born first, she said, so she wore the number one, and Anna was born second, minutes later.

"But I'm taller!" Anna yelled.

For weeks, they said, they practiced their dance every night to "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" by Silentó.


Marvio Spain danced with his friend Kenji Vang to the song "Rolex" by Ayo & Teo while Kevin Lee beatboxed. All of them are in fifth grade, and said they thought the talent show would be fun.

Spain and Vang said they trade dance moves back and forth. Lee learned to beatbox by watching videos. He said he likes to beatbox while he walks, in the hallways and on his way home from school.

Fourth-grader Carla Washington performs “Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder at the Mountain View Elementary School talent show on Thursday. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Carla Washington, age 8, really likes the recorder because she enjoys the sounds it makes.

Her favorite song to play is "Hot Cross Buns," so that's what she played onstage Thursday. But, she admitted, she felt kind of shy up there.

She said she's played the recorder for "a long time." (She's in fourth grade now, and started learning notes on the recorder in third grade.)


Melvin Freeman, a fourth-grader, belted "Amazing Grace" onstage Thursday.

He appeared pretty confident during his performance, but it took a bit to rev him up for the show, Bondarenko said.

"It took a lot to get him out," she said. "I told him if he forgot the words, I would give them to him."

Faaofo Faauliuli cheers as her daughter, Faaofo Fouvale, dances. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Second-grader Faaofo Elina Fouvale did the moonwalk across the stage wearing black pants and a white long-sleeved shirt as Michael Jackson's "Black or White" played over the speakers. She earned big applause.

In the crowd, her mom sat with the other students, recording the performance on her cellphone with one hand and dancing with the other.

"I like Michael Jackson a lot," Fouvale said.

Her auntie introduced her to Jackson's music, she said. She watched videos online to learn the moonwalk. She showed up to school about an hour early Thursday because she was so excited for the show.


"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight," an enthusiastic Bondarenko counted off in the front of the stage. She swayed to the right and then to the left, shaking her hands, as she led the school in a choreographed dance to the Grammy-winning song "Feel It Still," by Portugal. The Man, a band with strong Alaska roots.

Bondarenko moved to Alaska from Russia in 1992, and said she didn't know much English.

"So I can completely relate to a lot of these parents," she said. "You're starting from scratch."

At Mountain View Elementary, she said, she and other teachers, with the support of the principal, wanted to organize a talent show as a platform to showcase students' talents beyond the classroom, beyond tests. They wanted to help students build confidence.

"It's an opportunity to shine," she said.

Students enjoy the Mountain View Elementary School talent show on Thursday. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Portugal. The Man sent a video message for the elementary school's show.

Bondarenko said she didn't know much about the band, but knew some of its members were from Alaska and they had recently won a Grammy.

Talent show director Anna Bondarenko. (Marc Lester / ADN)

So, she sent a note to see if maybe they could come to the school's event. She didn't expect to hear back, she said.

But, the band responded saying they were going to be on tour (currently in Australia) and couldn't make it. In their place, they sent a box filled with winter hats embroidered with the band's logo.

Though technical problems interfered with the band's video at the actual show, students quickly put on the hats before getting onstage for their final dance to the song "Feel It Still."

"Represent who you are and where you're from," guitarist Eric Howk, from Wasilla, said in the video. "Be proud of who you are."