Kangaroo Kids to perform at college


They do twists and turns, single jumps, double-Dutch jumps, long jumps, even triangle jumps and stunts with props.

They're the Kangaroo Kids Precision Jump Rope Team from Howard County, which can be seen in a public performance at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Gill Gymnasium on the Western Maryland College campus.

The Howard County youths will be joined by precision rope jumpers from other parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana and Ontario, Canada.

A highlight of the show will be a performance by Canadian National Rope Skipping Champion Elvis Malcolm midway into the two-hour show. "He's an acro-jumper -- he started out in gymnastics," said Jean Hodges, Kangaroo Kids' head coach. "He'll do tumbling and jumping, and we're trying to get a trampoline for part of his act."

The evening spectacle will be the culmination of the Kangaroo Kids' 10th annual Jump Rope Festival, in which 420 youths from throughout the United States and Canada will participate in a series of workshops from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the college.

"We have three levels of instruction at each workshop -- beginning, intermediate and advanced," Ms. Hodges said.

"All three sessions will be going on at the same time. We have five Kangaroo Kids coaches, plus some alumni from college. We use the senior skippers as instructors, too."

The rope jumpers range from kindergarten to college age, although most of them are in elementary and middle school. The Howard County group has about 100 students from all 13 grades.

The Kangaroo Kids group was started in 1978 by a physical education teacher at a Howard County elementary school. The program grew to include jumping skills choreographed to music. It also expanded to a countywide program with headquarters in Simpsonville, staffed by Ms. Hodges, other coaches and a coordinator.

"They practice once a week, with directions on what to do in between," Ms. Hodges said. "The travel teams and older teams may practice two or three times a week. The travel team is the elite; there are 45 kids who are rotated to travel all over the country and world, but they have to earn their stripes."

The Kangaroo Kids have performed at the White House and Walt Disney World, and have conducted workshops at the Maryland Special Olympics and the International Winter and Summer Special Olympic Games.

The group has traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia, performed on television and earned numerous awards.

Every summer, children interested in learning jump rope skills are invited to the Kangaroo Kids' camp at Western Maryland College. This year's camp will be July 18-22.

Anyone interested in attending can call Ms. Hodges at (410) 880-0781.

Tomorrow's 6 p.m. public performance will be preceded at 5:45 p.m. with a parade of the jumpers in uniform carrying their state flags. About 15 teams each will perform a seven-minute routine.

Admission to the show is $1.

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