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A club that keeps students on their toes

A student dribbles a basketball while jumping rope.2 / 3
A student waits to jump in.3 / 3

With spinning wrists and nimble feet, a group of Rosemount elementary and middle school students does things with a jumprope that might not ever occur to the average kid on the playground.

The students, members of a double dutch club based at Rosemount Elementary School, jump one rope, two ropes, even six spinning ropes at a time. They jump with multiple people on one rope, while crawling through one another's legs, or while dribbling a basketball. It's quite a show, and club members, who range from kindergarten to eighth grade, are performing for a growing audience.

Rosemount Elementary School physical education teacher Kathi Engebretson has been teaching double dutch in her classes since she learned it from her students in the 1980-81 school year, her first as a teacher. It started as one station in her class, then expanded to an after-school group. The group didn't start performing exhibitions until 2009.

In 2011, the rope-skippers got sponsorship from the American Heart Association as a demonstration team to promote rope jumping and Jump Rope for Heart, a Heart Association fundraiser.

In recent weeks the double dutch club has performed at halftime of a Rosemount High School basketball game, and in gymnasiums at district elementary schools. They performed at the Mall of America, part of an event put on by the heart association.

Since January, the club has performed 15 times at schools from Faribault to Apple Valley to St. Paul.

Currently, Engebretson, Teresa Slingerland and Susan Lloyd team teach double dutch classes after school.

Hannah Betters and Laura Rietveld are in eighth grade now, but they were students at RES when the club started. They joined then, and they've stuck with it ever since. They hope to show off their jumprope skills when RMS holds its talent show at the end of the school year.

"I like double dutch," Rietveld said. "It's cool to impress people with all the tricks you can do."

The club has grown a lot over the years. The first year there were only six performers. Now there are more than a dozen, including one student who travels from another district elementary school to participate.

The club practices after school on Friday afternoons and performs a few times a year. This year's season ended last week with a tour to several district elementary schools.

Practices usually involve students breaking into groups and either practicing tricks or trying to come up with new ways to jump over a spinning rope.

The things students come up with show plenty of creativity. During a performance last week at Greenleaf Elementary School students switched frequently among a collection of ropes on hand. At one point, while students in the audience sang along to the Katy Perry song Firework, they jumped as a large group over six ropes spinning in the shape of a star.

Engebretson has been to national camps dedicated to double dutch. She likes the club because it introduces kids to the idea of teamwork, and develops skills they can pass on. It also helps build a foundation of fitness.

It's an unusual group thanks to the wide range of ages, but Betters said she likes the diversity.

"It's fun to be around a whole bunch of people," she said.