Big stars are on the rise at Challenger Elementary School

June 15, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Challenger Elementary School students danced and sang their way to school success at the recent talent show. Below, fourth-grader Kyliann McClain’s Hula Hoop/dance extravaganza was a showstopper, as she twirled to several popular songs, including MC Hammer’s ‘Can’t Touch This.’ Photos by Tanja Fontana

Challenger Elementary School students of all ages danced, sang and dribbled their way to community stardom at this year’s school talent show June 4.“We haven’t had it for a few years,” said Rhonda Kurtenbach, an organizer for the event and educational assistant at the school. “We had several kids asking us to bring it back, so they could show off their talent. It was my daughter’s last year and she wanted to do it, so we thought we should get it under way again.”

Some of the acts included pint-sized violinists and piano maestros, dancers, an opera singer and some very unique talents.

Fifth-grader Jordan McCabe dribbled his way from one end of the stage to the other using one basketball to spin on his finger, and then two basketballs, dribbling one in each hand at different heights and putting them through his legs and myriad other tricks.

“I practice like two to three and a half hours a day,” Jordan said.

Other students said he looked like a professional Harlem Globetrotter.

Another act that stole the show was Kyliann McClain’s Hula Hoop/dance extravaganza. Twirling away at her hips, legs and arms Kyliann put her Hula Hoop to work to songs from Lady Gaga, Usher and MC Hammer.

“It’s kind of my signature,” Kyliann said. “I started, probably when I was 6. I was kind of a natural, my mom said.”

For both Kyliann and Jordan — who moved to Challenger from Oregon and Wisconsin, respectively — it was a chance to show their new peers what hidden talents they possess.

“I got a flyer about it and thought it would be a cool thing to do in front of the school,” Jordan said.

He said a crowd of 200 or so didn’t phase him at all, since he’d performed the routine by himself at a collegiate basketball tournament at the University of Wisconsin in front of thousands of fans.

“I like the feeling of entertaining people,” he said.

“It was nice just to perform in front of people and have my friends see what I can do,” Kyliann said. “I love being onstage. I think its really fun.”

“A lot of the kids that participated were very shy, so it was a nice way for them to show off,” Kurtenbach said. “For our students that are new to the school, they were able to show off and be recognized, too.”

Either way, she added, a talent show is “is a great opportunity for students to get a self-esteem boost and show something they normally wouldn’t be able to share with their peers.”

There were a host of stars present at the variety show — well, at least their look-alikes. Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and the “Phantom of the Opera’s” Christine Daaé, one of the story’s main characters, all had impersonators there.

From her petite frame, fifth-grader Ambre Fontana, belted out “Think of Me” from the “Phantom of the Opera” score.

While it’s unusual for a fifth-grader to even know what an operatic style is, Ambre said it’s one of her favorite types of music, especially the soprano version of “Think of Me.”

“It has these really high, really long notes,” Amber said. “So, I like doing it.”

Annie Kurtenbach performed Taylor Swift’s “Forever & Always,” her favorite song.

The night was a huge success, with nearly 200 parents, students, teachers and siblings in attendance, Kurtenbach said.

“Challenger has a really good support system for children and families and it was great,” Kurtenbach said. “It was nice that kids who weren’t even in the talent show came to show support for their friends.”

“I think this was the best talent show Challenger has ever had,” student Katherine Vitcovich said.

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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