2016 marks the 25th Anniversary of the National Double Dutch League and Lauren Walker, league president and daughter of NDDL founder David Walker, received a proclamation from the office of Mayor Bill deBlasio, whereas he proclaimed December 4th in Harlem in New York to be ‘Double Dutch Holiday Classic Day.’
Lauren’s father, David A. Walker, a former police sergeant and Harlem resident founded the National Double Dutch League, a nonprofit group as a way inspire young girls by channelling their athletic skill. He developed rules and brought the program to city school gym classes. The first Double Dutch competition was held at Intermediate School 10 in Harlem. On December 4th, 2016, the National Double Dutch League held its Double Dutch Holiday Classic, the annual Jump-off competition held at the legendary Apollo Theatre. And this year, Harlem World Magazine was there.
The pure beauty of this event, is that it shucks everything I thought I knew about Double Dutch. This is no longer just a pastime for little black and Latina girls in the hood. Double Dutch is competitive sport, mastered by girls and boys, women and men of all races and cultures. It is has also transcended from our borders, reaching far-off places and corners of the world. Representatives from France, Japan, London were nailing their Double Dutch routines in a synergy of acrobatics, Break Dance headspins, crunking, backhand springs and somersaults, all choreographed to the latest Hip Hop and Reggae music, dance moves on rope-beat and executed to perfection, within the ellipsis of two twirling jump ropes.
If this is too difficult to picture, imagine Olympic Floor Exercises mixed with competitive cheerleading, add marching band formations, a dash of Hip Hop “flava.” Double Dutch is all that going “into” and out of moving jump ropes.
This year in an upset, buckle up, a team hailing from Cincinnati, OH, comprised of male, female, and plus sized jumpers, wowed the Apollo audience with their choreography and incredible acrobatics…without skipping a beat. In the Open Freestyle Fusion Category, with their precision moves and Hip Hop acrobatics, Japanese teams have dominated the sport for the past 9 years. And in another upset, the Novice Fusion category was won by Team Busy from Jersey City, NJ, a team whose in routine included mind-boggling contortion moves by ten-year-old Sasha.
The standing Speed Jumping record (held by Latoya Gatlin who was incidentally the Mistress of Ceremony) was nearly smashed by lead jumper Anna, of team Bouncing Bulldogs of North Carolina. Led by coach Ray Frederick, Jr., they were the breakout performers in this year’s competition. Often sweeping first, second, and third place in almost every category. Even more remarkable was that this team is composed of roughly 60 jumpers, boys and girls, reflecting every culture in the spectrum. This was a real rainbow coalition, nailing their routines. How is that for solidarity?
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I am the editor-in-chief of Harlem World Magazine. I cannot speak for everyone, but I know for me, noticing every girl, regardless of race was paying homage with a signature hairstyle, Two Cornrows to the back brought tears to my eyes. In the aftermath of the 2016 elections, the first thing that came to my mind was the words of Dr. King, “We will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual….”
Those interested in Double Dutch training camps or launching a Double Dutch program at their school or community center, should contact the National Double Dutch League president Lauren Walker via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This has been a Harlem World Invite Event….
Around the block…
Around the world…
Eartha Watts Hicks is editor-in-chief at Harlem World Magazine, award-winning author of Love Changes, and a member of the legendary Harlem Writers Guild.