Connections students have chance to perform

Sharing their talents

Four Murrays — Petra, LillyGean, EmmaLyn and Laurie — stood before a long wall paneled with mirrors in Bunny Chong’s studio in Soldotna. The dark-haired cousins, each wearing long bright yellow muumuus with brilliant red flowers painted along the bottom, waited for the music to begin, often mouthing the words to the narrative beginning of a tale involving the Hawaiian fire goddess Pele.


“Oh! No smiling,” Petra said, as they waited for the drums to kick in. “This is a sad song.”

Laurie translated the story as the three other Murrays began the slow, graceful movements of a hula dance, punctuated by several hip-popping maneuvers and drops to the floor that left them out breath but grinning by the end of the piece.

The group, along with 20 other acts, will perform for the annual Connections Talent show at Soldotna High School today.

“Learning it was hard,” Petra said of the hula dancing. “But, eventually you get used to doing all the things at the same time and you have to concentrate, really hard on keeping your body straight so it’s quite complicated at first, but once you learn it, it’s a lot easier.”

Mark Wackler, Connections Homeschool Adviser, said the Murrays’ act is one of the more unique ones, but far from the only out-of-the-ordinary talent on display.

“We had a student the last few years, he played the xylophone and when you think of the xylophone it sounds really boring but it was incredible what he could do with that instrument,” Wackler said. “He was the only person I know that makes the xylophone look cool.”

Wackler said several students would play guitar or piano and sing for the show.

Another family dancing group Shania, Isaac and Rachel Johnson will perform an original choreographed hip-hop-style dance to pop star Justin Bieber’s “Baby.”

“It was Isaac’s idea,” said Shania, laughing.

The eighth-grade student choreographed the dance and then spent several long hours training fifth-grader Isaac and second-grader Rachel the moves.

“That’s the most difficult part of the whole situation,” she said of coaxing her two siblings into memorizing the piece. “That is, like, it’s so unbelievable. That takes patience, a lot of patience and hard work.”

In a separate act, Shania will be playing guitar and singing an original composition called “My Little Angel” a tribute to victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Shania said she loves to sing and perform for the community and although she’s only been playing guitar and writing music for a little over a year, she likes to express herself through the medium.

“The talent ranges are all over the place,” Wackler said. “We’ve got some beginners you know that are maybe just starting to learn whatever instrument or singing or dancing or whatever their talent is; then we have some folks that are very gifted musicians that are probably going to be lifetime musicians and very impressive.”

The show is not competitive and Wackler thinks that makes the atmosphere pleasant for performers and the audience.

“I think it has a better vibe,” he said.


Rashah McChesney can be reached at