LSU jump roper goes national

Photo by: Emily Stack
Photo by: Emily Stack

By Chelsea Brasted | LSU Student

LSU senior Kaylee Couvillion is about to jump onto a national stage as she travels with Cirque Dreams' Holidaze tour.

Semi-professional jump roper and kinesiology major Couvillion, 21, will perform with a jump roping team as part of the circus-style production's seasonal holiday national tour beginning in November. The production company is based in Pompano Beach, Fla.

The sport of jump roping became popularized through the 1970s with the development of the National Double Dutch League, according to the USA Jump Rope website. Now several organizations work to popularize and hold competitions for the sport, including USA Jump Rope and the International Rope Skipping Federation.

Couvillion of Baton Rouge has won national titles for her performance, something her entrance into the sport could never have predicted.

"I was in third grade and all my friends were missing school for this jump roping team, and I was super jealous," Couvillion recalled of her time at Parkview Baptist School. "I tried out for the jump roping teams just in order to miss school."

Couvillion has remained a part of the Parkview team, Heart and Soul, which became a family affair when her mother, Anne, took over the coaching position when Couvillion was in the eighth grade.

"I fell in love with it," Anne Couvillion said. "It provides a lot of unique things that other sports don't for kids because of the structure and nature of it … It demands a lot of individual discipline."

Couvillion and her mother both said that because jump-roping teams allow athletes of all ages, a family-like atmosphere develops.

"We do a lot of mentoring and the older kids bring up younger kids. [There's] a lot of life skill and leadership development. We do workshops and clinics for anyone who wants to come so people can jump rope that way," Couvillion said.

Participation with Heart and Soul has led Couvillion to travel the globe to do various workshops and performances with productions such as Cirque du Soleil or during halftime shows for the New Orleans Hornets.

Preparation for the productions can vary from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the number of people involved and performance length.

"One [halftime show] that lasts a minute and a half takes about two days to choreograph and at least a week to practice," Couvillion said.

The performances are usually set to music and involve any number of athletes jumping high into the air and whipping the rope between and around their bodies.  The finished product becomes something like a dance and tumbling performance using the ropes.

Due to the serious athleticism required, the sport is not without its injuries.

"You see I'm wearing wrist braces," Couvillion explained while demonstrating some typical performance movements. "A couple years ago at jump rope camp, I was being thrown in the air and fell from eight or nine feet in the air on my wrists. I broke one and sprained the other … I know people that suffer from stress fractures and knee problems but it's all worth it."

Couvillion's favorite part of jump rope is performing for and teaching younger kids the skills and techniques to be successful jumpers.

"You're looking at all these kids, and it's the first time they've seen an actual jump rope show, and they're faces are so excited," Couvillion said.

Couvillion said she's excited to get started with choreographing the Cirque Dreams Holidaze tour, especially because she had to take the semester off of school to fit it into her schedule.

Couvillion's mother said she is also excited for Couvillion to perform with Cirque Dreams.

"I think it's obviously an amazing opportunity. It's a little nerve-racking as her mom, but as a coach I'm thrilled," Anne Couvillion said. "It will add yet another color to the whole fabric of her jump roping experience."

Couvillion said preparation for the circus-styled show will take a different mindset from choreographing a typical performance.

"It's a lot more structured but it's made to look more unstructured. It's made to look theatrical and audience interactive.  We incorporate costumes, dancing, choreograph to music," Couvillion said. The cast grows so much closer together … it's like a big family."