On a patch of concrete in Cow Meadow Park in Freeport, an intense game of double Dutch is in motion. Two jump ropes twirl so fast that the sound of them whipping in circles fills the air. But these aren’t kids vaulting into the ropes to jump, jump, jump until they are finally tripped up.
They’re women older than 35 who are part of the Dutchess of Ropes league that formed in June on Long Island. The women are gearing up for their first throwdown — on Sept. 22, the Nassau crew will compete against the Suffolk crew at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow to see which team can jump the longest and perform the best tricks or routines. “I feel like I’m back in my childhood,” says Victoria Cleckley, 38, a health and wellness coach from Freeport who is president of the league. “I’m 10 again, jumping with my friends.”
Double Dutch has been having a moment — Missy Elliott’s “Throw It Back” video released in late August features a scene with dancers using Elliott’s super long braids as double Dutch ropes. A video of a New York City police officer in uniform jumping double Dutch at a neighborhood event in August has garnered more than 77,000 views.
Double Dutch is a style of jump rope in which two “turners” rotate two long jump ropes simultaneously, and a jumper vaults into the middle of the twirling ropes. The jumper must hop doubly fast because two ropes are alternatingly hitting the ground around the person . Experienced jumpers can add tricks such as jumping jacks, dance moves or even pushups while jumping, or add two, three, or four jumpers inside the ropes in unison. The game was popular in past decades in New York City neighborhoods, especially among girls, fans say.
Farrah Gibbs-Jean of Baldwin, 36, a registered nurse, started the Strong Island & Queens Border Double Dutch Club in July, launching a Facebook page to try to organize informal meetups of grownups. “My goal is to see if I can get an indoor location, so we can keep the group going year-round,” she says.
Double Dutch dance is now one of the most popular classes offered at Layla’s Dance & Jump in Valley Stream, says owner Anayo Michel. It was at a family picnic that Michel had her aha moment. “All the adults were jumping, and the kids were looking at us like we were space aliens,” Michel says. When Michel was growing up in the '70s, kids would learn double Dutch on the block, she says, and she realized kids today don’t have such freedom. “I decided I would bring double Dutch back to a new generation,” she says. Her students, she says, can be as young as 3.
Some schools across Long Island are offering double Dutch as part of physical education, and at Bellport Middle School in Bellport and Copiague Middle School in Copiague, students can join double Dutch extracurricular clubs that meet after school. Another recreational club called Bellport Double Dutch is made up of kids from kindergarten through fifth grade and meets weekly at the local Boys & Girls Club, says head coach Erica Martin, who also is a New York State representative to the American Double Dutch League, which runs double Dutch competitions. Long Island doesn't currently have any competitive teams, Martin says.
Beth Bolger, a physical education teacher at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School in Sayville, teaches double Dutch in gym classes. “It’s rare that you ever have a child who comes in knowing how to do double Dutch. It’s not something a lot of kids do anymore,” she says.
While jumpers may get the most spotlight, it’s critical to have good turners, Bolger says. “They have to be able to work the right and left hands separately. You have to make sure the top and bottom ropes are complete opposite of the other; one has to be up while the other is down,” she says. “You have to have consistent rhythm. It you’re too slow or too fast, it’s hard for the jumper.” Double Dutch is a team effort, she says.
“When you jump, you have to make sure you get high enough to get off the ground but not so high that your head gets tangled in the other rope,” says Mia De Gregoria, 10, a fifth-grader at the school.
Yocana Orange, 41, an accountant from Farmingdale who started the Dutchess of Ropes league, which also features other fitness activities, calls double Dutch “a lost art.”
“It’s part of African-American culture. This was what little girls in the 'hood did,” she says. “A lot of the women haven’t jumped since they were little girls. It brings us back to our youth. It’s like adult recess.”
Dutchess of Ropes Competition
WHEN|WHERE 6 p.m. Sept. 22 at Eisenhower Park, East Meadow, field 6A
INFO $10 for spectators, for more information or to register for the league email firstname.lastname@example.org; joining the league requires a $50 fee and includes a T-shirt
Double Dutch Dance
WHEN|WHERE Layla’s Dance & Drum, 2 E. Merrick Rd., Valley Stream,
INFO $60 per month for one-hour weekly class, 646-539-8934