EDITOR’S NOTE: When Rene Bibaud showed off her championship jump-rope talents yards from where we were stationed during West Seattle Summer Fest – the clip below is one of two we published during Summer Fest coverage – we thought she seemed like a West Seattleite you might like to get to know better. So WSB contributing reporter Keri DeTore set out to catch Rene in a non-airborne moment.
By Keri DeTore
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
Rope-jumping is one of civilization’s oldest pastimes.
It’s possible that as a Pharaoh-kid, Tutankhamun was jumping vines to pass the time between headdress fittings while his contemporaries in the Pacific Islands were jumping between bamboo poles held on the ground. The Dutch brought rope-jumping with them to America, including their specialty team-building exercise: the “Double Dutch.”
Many of us jumped rope, but gave it up after our first bicycle or video game came along; we now think of it as a simple activity for kids to do when they’re restless — something that you might think doesn’t require much skill or effort. You’d re-think that if you met one of the many boxers who use rope-jumping as a serious workout to refine their speed and coordination – as well as if and when you meet Rene Bibaud, who has elevated rope-jumping to an art and a career, running her own business, Ropeworks.
(Photo courtesy Rene Bibaud)
Rene, who has lived in West Seattle for six years, has won multiple jump-rope championships, coached hundreds of kids and adults, and appeared in Cirque du Soleil’s traveling shows.
She grew up in Kirkland and was a member of the Hot Dog USA Jump Rope Team all through grade school, where she performed internationally and appeared on TV, “It was fun, I loved it!”
After high school, she started coaching for the US Amateur Jump Rope Federation and was asked by ESPN to be the first color commentator for the national championships. It was during this time that she entered and won the freestyle competition for her age division, and was seen by a representative of Cirque du Soleil.
She says: “I got a call from a guy in Montreal who thought I’d be a good addition to the show.” That guy was right, and Rene toured with Cirque du Soleil for the next 4-1/2 years, working with the acrobats to teach them rope-jumping skills. A video clip from one of her Cirque performances can be seen on her website Ropeworks.
After her tour with Cirque du Soleil, Rene thought, “Well, I can’t get a regular job NOW!” and decided to use her experiences to motivate others.
(Photo courtesy Rene Bibaud)
Today, Rene integrates her rope-jumping skills with motivational speaking and team-building exercises for kids and adults. She says the approach isn’t that different for the two groups: “I talk about goal-setting, putting forth your best effort and not comparing yourself to others; focus on what you can do to make things better.”
While discussing challenges she’s faced and sharing her experiences, she invites audience participation and gets company CEOs working the ropes for Double Dutch. When asked why she thinks people respond to the rope jumping, she replies: “It’s rhythmic and creative and it conjures up memories. It’s fun for people and I get audience participation to show them how doable it is.”
She’s particularly focused on youth programs and runs after-school rope-jumping classes throughout the city. Clearly, there’s much more to jumping rope than jumping and rope. Rene and her trained staff teach kids 6-13 years old fundamental techniques, then move on to freestyle tricks, partner routines, Double Dutch, and finally show them how to start choreographing their own routines. The classes are self-paced and open to kids of all skill levels. She especially enjoys the family classes, where kids and adults are given the tools and skills to do something together.
Rene regularly appears in jump-roping exhibitions, runs a summer jump rope camp for kids and still works with Cirque du Soleil, performing in their holiday shows. She says, “I have a unique and special job and I am blessed to have it. It’s a rewarding experience all around.”