Houghtaling Elementary School shook with the sound of stomping feet and celebratory cheers on the evening of March 3 as 50 students put their jump-rope skills on full display in an annual performance.
The performance was the end of the season for the “Houghtaling Hot Feats” jumprope club.
During a recent interview with the Daily News, fifth grade teacher Laura Kinunen said that the program has existed at Houghtaling for 29 years.
According to a 2015 article published in the Daily News, the program got its start in 1990 after the “Juneau Jumpers” visited Ketchikan and gave a performance. Other district schools have also adopted the idea.
Kinunen, who said that this school year is her first time being involved with the group, said that there were 56 students in the club this year. In the past, the total has climbed as high as 80 participants.
“Hot Feats” is a winter after-school activity that ends with a final performance, Kinunen explained.
Practices take place in January and February, when students are split into two age groups and stay after school to practice for an hour once a week.
The participants are instructed by teachers, volunteers and even other youth who once were Houghtaling Hot Feats members.
During the practice sessions, students learn the basic building blocks of jumping. They also learn intricate tricks that can be performed solo of with partners, and even with multiple ropes.
“All the kids love it,” Kinunen said. “They just come and it's a really fun, social thing for them to do.”
Kinunen said that tricks included “skiing,” where the participant is jumping from left to right under the arc of the rope; “scissors,” where the feet move forward and backward independently of each other; and “side swings,” where the jumper quickly brings the rope down and across each side of their body like a whip.
“It's active, and I think any time a kid is doing something active they're developing skills,” Kinunen said.
The students' hard work was evident during the March 3 showcase in the school gym. The room was packed with the friends, parents and siblings of the students.
First to the floor were the kindergarten, first grade and second grade Hot Feats participants.
The youngest jumpers debuted solo performances of their favorite tricks. Some stuck to the basics, while others added in cartwheels or other embellishments to their 30-second routines. Certain stuents also elected to perform with a friend or small group, using multiple, longer jump ropes to show off new moves.
According to Kinunen, the students weren't nervous to demonstrate their hard work to the big crowd.
“I don't think most kids were (nervous),” she said. “Some of the kindergarteners were feeling a little jitters.”
Kinunen said that most of the younger students would be just as pleased performing basic jumps as they would be with more advanced moves.
“Once we introduced the long rope and started practicing partner tricks and stuff, they were really excited, of course,” Kinunen said after their performance.
After the younger Hot Feats club members were finished, the third- through sixth-graders took to the spotlight to show their skills.
The older participants also called on friends to reveal more intricate tricks, such as jumping in and out of the arc of each other's ropes. Groups as large as four students performed tricks with up to four ropes, including a complicated “rainbow jump,” executed with multiple long ropes, at the end of the showcase.
The event was wrapped up with a series of double dutch jumps and the “triangle” jump, where three ropes were twirled at once — challenging a jumper to successfully make it over each side of the triangle that was created while all three ropes turned at once.
After the performance ended, the students were treated to root beer floats.
“I think they had a great time,” Kinunen said of the performance.
The club will resume again next winter.