In this feature MOVE aim to provide some knowledge about the ‘5th element of Hip Hop’ and how communities have embraced it across the globe.
ORIGINS OF DOUBLE DUTCH
There is a lot of general knowledge on-line about skipping but what we can grasp is that jumping a rope has been practiced for centuries around the whole world. The first skilled rope makers emerged from Ancient Egypt and early China – a game called Hundred Rope is documented – and was an activity enjoyed during Chinese New Year Festival.
The Greeks are also recorded as jumping a pole in the early days of their civilisation, however modern rope skipping can be said to have originated in the Netherlands.
Dutch settlers based in now New York, were America’s first jump-ropers. As the children jumped outside of their houses they accompanied their jumping games with all kind of songs.
The songs were in Dutch, which couldn’t be understood by the French or the English. It was the English who named it “Double Dutch”. The name was initially a derogatory term because anything associated with Dutch culture was considered absurd and inferior to the English.
In the ’40s and ’50s, jumping rope was very popular in the American inner city. Apartments and buildings were stacked together and girls would head to the sidewalks with their mothers’ clothes lines, if possible still wet from laundry day, so that the ropes would be heavy enough to hit the ground just right.
By the late 1950s, Double Dutch nearly became extinct as it was overshadowed by the popularity of television and radio.
In 1973, David A. Walker, a New York City Police Community Affairs Detective, joined by his partner Detective Ulysses Williams, developed the street game of Double Dutch into the World Class Sport that it is today.
With the support of physical education instructors, Walker and Williams revitalized the game by developing it into a competitive team sport. Williams used Double Dutch in his youth outreach programme named “Rope, not Dope” as a focus to keep girls away from the destructive temptations of the inner city.
The amount of organised Double Dutch teams increased during the 1980s, until New York City alone had fifteen hundred jumpers. Before long, Walker created the American Double Dutch League (ADDL). He had seen the positive impact Double Dutch had on his community, watching girls being rescued from the lures of gangs, drugs, crime, and sex.
In the 1980s New York introduced DJing, Rap, Breaking, Graffiti and Double Dutch as the 5 elements of hip hop street culture and community spirit. In 1982 New York Rap City Tour came to Europe. It came to spread these elements of Hip Hop culture and was embraced by its inhabitants. Part of the elements was a 4 piece Double Dutch crew called Fantastic Four.
The UK first was introduced to Double Dutch through Michael Mclarens UK hit single where he featured another New York based Double Dutch team entitled the “Ebonettes”.
However it was at its peak that Double Dutch began disappearing from hip-hop.
In March of 1983 Freddy and his partner Charlie Ahearn released Wild Style, a definitive hip-hop movie. This was the official introduction of hip-hop for the entire world. In the movie’s world of DJs, MCs, breakers, and graffiti artists, the Double Dutch girls were nowhere to be found. From there, the separation continued, The Fantastic Four went off to college the same year Wild Style was released and no one took their place in the scene. As hip-hop grew more commercialised, Double Dutch faded out of the spotlight.
McDonalds who had sponsored the ADDL tournaments locally and nationally had provided financial support for these events and helped Double Dutch gain a wider audience. However in the 1990s McDonalds severed its ties with the ADDL and single-handedly collapsed the network of rope-jumping leagues in America. Membership declined and tournaments were few and far between.
Nowadays however, popularity is on the rise again, there are International Championships held all over the world with France, U.S.A and Japan as leaders of Double Dutch in the competitive world, where speed and creative acrobatic freestyle routines are exciting ways of challenging participants to achieve a high level. Championships include speed – how many times a player can jump over the rope in two minutes, compulsory tricks and a three-minute freestyle.
Double Dutch is a unique and empowering street sport which unites people of all ages & walks of life, promotes teamwork, unity and perseverance whilst being an amazing form of fitness.
You can find out more about one of the world leaders in Double Dutch, Jonathan Mahoto from France by clicking here.
He will be working directly with our project JUMP LDN to develop Double Dutch skipping in London.
Double Dutch continues to grow around the world and is proven to be an amazing resource for youth and community work.